Friday, January 31, 2014


Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 8, Thomas Set
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

"The Scene changes presenting Ludlow Town and the Presidents Castle, then com in Countrey-Dancers, after them the attendant Spirit, with the two Brothers and the Lady.
Line 958

Back Shepherds, back, anough your play,
Till next Sun-shine holiday, Here be without duck or nod Other trippings to be trod
Of lighter toes, and such Court guise
As Mercury did first devise
With the mincing Dryades
On the Lawns, and on the Leas.

This second Song presents them to their father and mother.
Noble Lord, and Lady bright,
I have brought ye new delight,
Here behold so goodly grown
Three fair branches of your own,
Heav'n hath timely tri'd their youth,
Their faith, their patience, and their truth,
And sent them here through hard assays
With a crown of deathless Praise,
To triumph in victorious dance
 O're sensual Folly, and Intemperance."

In the final scene of Milton's mask, he shifted from the imaginary events of the children journeying through the forest and encountering Comus, the attendant Spirit and Sabrina; to the real events of the children shedding their characters and rejoining the parents to celebrate their father's installation as
Lord President of Wales and The Marches. Blake, however, stuck to completing the story which was being told in mythopoeic events. The Lady had experienced an epiphany which completed her childhood and set her on the path of an adult woman confronting the challenges of living in a world where male and female, soul and body, inner and outer must be reconciled. Blake's picture shows the Lady returning to a modest home and being greeted by simple, middle aged parents. The couple is representative of the divided world in which matter and sexuality rule. The Lady had accepted consignment to the world of generation with the promise that it would lead to regeneration.

The work of the attendant Spirit was complete. The shepherd disguise was shed and the Spirit resumed an angelic form. 

But the work of the Lady in the world of Generation had begun. She had been offered the gift of sinking into the water of material life and had accepted it. The irony is that the garment of materiality was put on for the purpose of learning the skills for removing it: brotherhood, forgiveness and annihilation of the Selfhood.

Milton, Plate 41 [48], (E 142)
"These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains

Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration."

Jerusalem, Plate 7, (E 150)
[Los speaks]
"Comfort thyself in my strength the time will arrive,
When all Albions injuries shall cease, and when we shall         
Embrace him tenfold bright, rising from his tomb in immortality.
They have divided themselves by Wrath. they must be united by
Pity: let us therefore take example & warning O my Spectre,
O that I could abstain from wrath! O that the Lamb
Of God would look upon me and pity me in my fury.                
In anguish of regeneration! in terrors of self annihilation:
Pity must join together those whom wrath has torn in sunder,
And the Religion of Generation which was meant for the destruction
Of Jerusalem, become her covering, till the time of the End.
O holy Generation! [Image] of regeneration!    
O point of mutual forgiveness between Enemies!
Birthplace of the Lamb of God incomprehensible!"

Jerusalem, Plate 90, (E 250)
"Los cries: No Individual ought to appropriate to Himself
Or to his Emanation, any of the Universal Characteristics
Of David or of Eve, of the Woman, or of the Lord.           
Of Reuben or of Benjamin, of Joseph or Judah or Levi
Those who dare appropriate to themselves Universal Attributes
Are the Blasphemous Selfhoods & must be broken asunder
A Vegetated Christ & a Virgin Eve, are the Hermaphroditic
Blasphemy, by his Maternal Birth he is that Evil-One         
And his Maternal Humanity must be put off Eternally
Lest the Sexual Generation swallow up Regeneration
Come Lord Jesus take on thee the Satanic Body of Holiness

Four Zoas, Night I, Page 3, (E 301)
"Los was the fourth immortal starry one, & in the Earth
Of a bright Universe Empery attended day & night                 
Days & nights of revolving joy, Urthona was his name
Page 4
In Eden; in the Auricular Nerves of Human life
Which is the Earth of Eden, he his Emanations propagated
Fairies of Albion afterwards Gods of the Heathen, Daughter of Beulah Sing
His fall into Division & his Resurrection to Unity
His fall into the Generation of Decay & Death & his Regeneration 
     by the Resurrection from the dead"  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Illustrations of Paradise Lost 9

The Temptation and Fall of Eve

From Book IX
Shee fair, divinely fair, fit Love for Gods,
490 Not terrible, though terrour be in Love
And beautie, not approacht by stronger hate,
Hate stronger, under shew of Love well feign'd,
The way which to her ruin now I tend.

So spake the Enemie of Mankind, enclos'd
495 In Serpent, Inmate bad, and toward Eve
Address'd his way, not with indented wave,
Prone on the ground, as since, but on his reare,

Circular base of rising foulds, that tour'd
Fould above fould a surging Maze, his Head
500 Crested aloft, and Carbuncle his Eyes;
With burnisht Neck of verdant Gold, erect
Amidst his circling Spires, that on the grass
Floted redundant: pleasing was his shape,
And lovely, never since of Serpent kind
505 Lovelier, not those that in Illyria chang'd
Hermione and Cadmus, or the God
In Epidaurus; nor to which transformd
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline was seen,
Hee with Olympias, this with her who bore
510 Scipio the highth of Rome . With tract oblique
At first, as one who sought access, but feard
To interrupt, side-long he works his way.
As when a Ship by skilful Stearsman wrought
Nigh Rivers mouth or Foreland, where the Wind
515 Veres oft, as oft so steers, and shifts her Saile;
So varied hee, and of his tortuous Traine
Curld many a wanton wreath in sight of Eve,
To lure her Eye; shee busied heard the sound
Of rusling Leaves, but minded not, as us'd
520 To such disport before her through the Field,
From every Beast, more duteous at her call,
Then at Circean call the Herd disguis'd.
Hee boulder now, uncall'd before her stood;
But as in gaze admiring: Oft he bowd
525 His turret Crest, and sleek enamel'd Neck,
Fawning, and lick'd the ground whereon she trod.
His gentle dumb expression turnd at length
The Eye of Eve to mark his play; he glad
Of her attention gaind, with Serpent Tongue
530 Organic, or impulse of vocal Air,
His fraudulent temptation thus began.

Eating the Apple
wiki common 

Blake shows Eve, leaning against the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,  with the Serpent wrapped around her, eating the fruit offered to her by the snake.

In contrast Adam is looking away; the serpent has not bothered with him. (But you may remember that henceforth Adam and the serpent were both cursed.)

In Blake's myth and value structure the man is contemplative and the woman active, spiritual rather then material; we might suppose that this conforms to what we read in Genesis:

Chapter Two
[15] And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.
[16] And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
[17] But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
[18] And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
[19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
[22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
[24] Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
[25] And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
[1] Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
[2] And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
[3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
[4] And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
[5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
[6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
[7] And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
[8] And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.
[9] And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
[10] And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
[11] And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?[12] And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
[13] And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
[14] And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
[15] And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Blake altered several details in his second version of picture 7 illustrating the lines in which Sabrina sprinkles water on the Lady's breast and touches her fingertips and lips. In the Thomas version the Lady sits underground as she did in the first illustration of the series. In the Butts image she sits on the edge of the woods. Sabrina has lost two of her attending nymphs in the second version but has gained a rainbow. Expressions and gestures have been modified. The Lady seems more accepting of the changes she has undergone in the second illustration.
In both sets the attendant Spirit, still dressed as a shepherd, stands at the left of the picture and points heavenward. The attentive brothers watch as Sabrina provides her ministrations.

The addition of the rainbow creates another dimension to the transformation of the Lady. In the last post Sabrina's function was seen to be initiating the Lady to the world of generation as the next state on her journey. The rainbow is the symbol of the promise that generation will lead to regeneration. Damon tells us that: "Noah's rainbow is the hope and promise of immortality, as it symbolizes the spiritual body." (A Blake Dictionary, Page 340)
Wikipedia Commons
Milton's Comus
Butts Set, Illustration 7

A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

Line 802
Spirit to Sabrina
"Goddess dear
We implore thy powerful hand
To undoe the charmed band
Of true Virgin here distrest,
Through the force, and through the wile
Of unblest inchanter vile.

Shepherd 'tis my office best
To help insnared chastity;"

Line 938
Lady while Heaven lends us grace,
Let us fly this cursed place,
Lest the Sorcerer us intice
With som other new device.
Not a waste, or needless sound
Till we com to holier ground,
I shall be your faithfull guide
Through this gloomy covert wide,"

  As the attendant Spirit was assigned to watch over the Lady in her passage through the internal struggles surrounding her transition from Innocence to Experience, Los was selected to watch over and guide Albion through the task of rebuilding the fractured psyche into a unity.

Jerusalem, Plate 83, (E 242)
Los spoke:
"It must lie in confusion till Albions time of awaking.
Place the Tribes of Llewellyn in America for a hiding place!
Till sweet Jerusalem emanates again into Eternity
The night falls thick: I go upon my watch: be attentive:
The Sons of Albion go forth; I follow from my Furnaces:
That they return no more: that a place be prepard on Euphrates
Listen to your Watchmans voice: sleep not before the Furnaces
Eternal Death stands at the door. O God pity our labours.

So Los spoke. to the Daughters of Beulah while his Emanation
Like a faint rainbow waved before him in the awful gloom
Of London City on the Thames from Surrey Hills to Highgate

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Illustrations of Paradise Lost 8

The Creation of Eve
Wiki Commons
Thomas version of Illustrations of Paradise Lost

Excerpts from Book VIII

Hee ended, or I heard no more, for now
My earthly by his Heav'nly overpowerd,
Which it had long stood under, streind to the highth
455In that celestial Colloquie sublime,
As with an object that excels the sense,
Dazl'd and spent, sunk down, and sought repair
Of sleep, which instantly fell on me, call'd
By Nature as in aide, and clos'd mine eyes.
460Mine eyes he clos'd, but op'n left the Cell
Of Fancie my internal sight, by which
Abstract as in a transe methought I saw,
Though sleeping, where I lay, and saw the shape
Still glorious before whom awake I stood;
465Who stooping op'nd my left side, and took
From thence a Rib, with cordial spirits warme,
And Life-blood streaming fresh; wide was the wound,
But suddenly with flesh fill'd up and heal'd:
The Rib he formd and fashond with his hands;
470Under his forming hands a Creature grew,
Manlike, but different sex, so lovly faire,
That what seemd fair in all the World, seemd now
Mean, or in her summ'd up, in her containd
And in her looks, which from that time infus'd
475Sweetness into my heart, unfelt before,
And into all things from her Aire inspir'd
The spirit of love and amorous delight.
Shee disappeerd, and left me dark, I wak'd
To find her, or for ever to deplore
480Her loss, and other pleasures all abjure:
When out of hope, behold her, not farr off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adornd
With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable: On she came,
485Led by her Heav'nly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice, nor uninformd
Of nuptial Sanctitie and marriage Rites:
Grace was in all her steps, Heav'n in her Eye,
In every gesture dignitie and love.
490I overjoyd could not forbear aloud.

This turn hath made amends; thou hast fulfill'd
Thy words, Creator bounteous and benigne,
Giver of all things faire, but fairest this
Of all thy gifts, nor enviest. I now see
495Bone of my Bone, Flesh of my Flesh, my Self
Before me; Woman is her Name, of Man
Extracted; for this cause he shall forgoe
Father and Mother, and to his Wife adhere;
And they shall be one Flesh, one Heart, one Soule.
This is a dream Adam had, from which he woke up to find it a reality.

This is the biblical version:
Genesis 2
[18]Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
[19] So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
[20] The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.
[21] So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh;
[22] and the rib which the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
[23] Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
[24] Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Blake portrayed this scene in the Angel of the Divine Presence and here.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Under the guidance of the attendant Spirit, the Brothers sought the assistance of the Nymph, Sabrina, in disenchanting the Lady. Milton suggested the importance of Sabrina by providing her biography. Sabrina was given refuge in her flight from her father Brutus by Nymphs of the Severn. She became the Goddess of the river and a protector of the needy with a soft place in her heart for virgins like herself.

Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 7, Thomas Set
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

Line 910
"Brightest Lady look on me.
Thus I sprinkle on thy brest
Drops that from my fountain pure,
I have kept of pretious cure,
Thrice upon thy fingers tip,
Thrice upon thy rubied lip, [ 915 ]
Next this marble venom'd seat
Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat
I touch with chaste palms moist and cold,

Now the spell hath lost his hold"

The cure for the Lady was provided by the agency of water. Everything in Milton's poetry about Sabrina alluded to water: she was saved in water by the Gods of water; all the Gods and Goddesses of water were invoked to secure her assistance for the Lady. Milton like Blake was aware that in Platonic philosophy the symbolic meaning of water is the material world. Blake saw that the introduction of the nymph Sabrina to perform the healing of the Lady indicated that her journey would take her through the world of matter. 

In his poetry Blake developed several symbols to represent man's journey through the material world. Moving through Innocence to Experience and beyond was an image of our journey through life on Earth. The process of creating bodies by Los and Enitharmon was preparation for the travels through generation which man undertakes. The descent from Eden through Beulah into Generation initiated the undertaking of the journey. In Comus, Sabrina's role was to propel the Lady along her journey. The Lady,
like Thel, hesitated to take the risk of engaging with the uncertainties of a fully human existence. Sabrina anointed the Lady with the water of baptism initiating her journey through generation or the material world.  

Thel, Plate 5. (E 6)
"Wilt thou O Queen enter my house. 'tis given thee to enter,
And to return; fear nothing. enter with thy virgin feet.
Plate 6
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,"

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Illustrations of Paradise Lost 7

                                             From Text of Book I
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie With hideous ruine and combustion down To bottomless perdition, there to dwell In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire, Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
From Text of Book VI
 Go then thou Mightiest in thy Fathers might, Ascend my Chariot, guide the rapid Wheeles That shake Heav'ns basis, bring forth all my Warr, My Bow and Thunder, my Almightie Arms Gird on, and Sword upon thy puissant Thigh; Pursue these sons of Darkness, drive them out From all Heav'ns bounds into the utter Deep:

The Rout of the Rebel Angels
From the Thomas Set
Wiki Common
Paradise Lost
The central figure right below Christ's arrow is Satan head first, genitals 
prominently showing..
Christ has seven arrows for his bow.
Six angels are gathered above and around the Sun.
Like many of the falling rebels he's holding his head, an indication
that the fall is mental as well as physical.
Dr. Essick refers us to the Book of Milton, Plate 34:
"These are the Gods of the Kingdoms of the Earth: in contrarious
And cruel opposition: Element against Element,  opposed in War
Not Mental as the Wars of Eternity but a Corporeal Strife"


Saturday, January 25, 2014


In the performance of Milton's Mask, the arrival of the Brothers at Comus' palace would have been staged to entertain the audience. Noise, action, music and drama would have distinguished the event. The importance to the play is belied by the few lines which were devoted to describing it. Since this poem was written as a drama we should also remember that three of the actors were young: 15 years old and younger. The serious issues to which Milton alluded were imbedded in a play which could be light entertainment which children could present. 
Wikipedia Commons
Milton's Comus
Butts Set, Illustration 6

A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

Line 901
[Spirit to Sabrina]
"Goddess dear
We implore thy powerful hand
To undoe the charmed band
Of true Virgin here distrest,
Through the force, and through the wile
Of unblest inchanter vile."

Blake redesigned and reinterpreted his image for illustration 6 of the Butts set. The Lady is positioned more centrally in the picture. She still sits rigidly but she is not in the magic chair in which Comus seated her. The Lady, Comus, and enchanted figures occupy half of the picture enveloped in smoke. The background for the brothers on the opposite side is the forest in which they originally traveled. Consistent with the Thomas image are the brothers' swords, the cup, and the wand. But blue smoke from a fire beneath his feet surrounds Comus. Comus is partially clothed. The dark figures above Comus are sinister but human.
Since Milton had little to say about this scene, Blake choose to portray some of his own ideas about overcoming error in order to be transformed. Each of the characters in the smoke suffers from a befuddled mind. The clear minded brothers attempt to eliminate the confusion. Included among the figments resting on the smoke or cloud are a veiled woman and a bat-winged man. Blake's introduction of flames suggests that he is directing our attention to the possibility of transformation.  
Bette Charlene Werner believes that Blake's appreciation for Comus increased in the intervening years between the production of his two sets of illustrations. In Blake's Vision of the Poetry of Milton: Illustrations to Six Poems she states:
"From the changes Blake made in his second treatment of the masque one can discern an increased appreciation that comes through fidelity to the  poem's inner form, its pattern of spiritual pilgrimage. Having indicated his disagreements with Milton's ostensible subject of virginity in the first series of illustrations, Blake shows in the second his enhanced sense of an underlying truth in its poetry. Having revealed Milton's philosophical and artistic errors for the confining and paralyzing encrustations that they are, he is intent now on redeeming the masque as a true expression of poetic spirit. In his second set of Comus designs the clear dream and solemn vision of the masque are clarified."

In these passages from Milton, Blake distinguishes between unmaterialized 'Passions & Desires' which wail in their suffering, and the generated bodies which can gain experience and cast off error. The inward journey takes travelers through Golgonooza where they receive physical bodies to be born on earth. If we view Comus in the light of this paradigm the Lady is traveling inward to Golgonooza and Comus is traveling outward to Satan's seat. 

Milton, Plate 3, (E 97)
"they Builded the Looms of Generation
They Builded Great Golgonooza Times on Times Ages on Ages" 

Milton, Plate I7 [19], (E 111)
"For travellers from Eternity. pass outward to Satans seat,
But travellers to Eternity. pass inward to Golgonooza."  
Milton, Plate 26 [28],(E 123)
"And these the Labours of the Sons of Los in Allamanda:
And in the City of Golgonooza: & in Luban: & around
The Lake of Udan-Adan, in the Forests of Entuthon Benython       
Where Souls incessant wail, being piteous Passions & Desires
With neither lineament nor form but like to watry clouds
The Passions & Desires descend upon the hungry winds
For such alone Sleepers remain meer passion & appetite;
The Sons of Los clothe them & feed & provide houses & fields   

And every Generated Body in its inward form,
Is a garden of delight & a building of magnificence,
Built by the Sons of Los in Bowlahoola & Allamanda
And the herbs & flowers & furniture & beds & chambers
Continually woven in the Looms of Enitharmons Daughters          
In bright Cathedrons golden Dome with care & love & tears
For the various Classes of Men are all markd out determinate

In Bowlahoola; & as the Spectres choose their affinities
So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate
But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because         
The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction
Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death
And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power.

And every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural: for a Natural Cause only seems, it is a Delusion      
Of Ulro: & a ratio of the perishing Vegetable Memory."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Illustrations of Paradise Lost 6

From wikipedia
Raphael is an archangel who God sends to warn Adam about Satan's infiltration of Eden and to warn him that Satan is going to try to curse Adam and Eve. He also has a lengthy discussion with the curious Adam regarding creation and events which transpired in Heaven.

Taken from 'William Blake at the Huntington:

(This image depends mainly upon Books IV and V of Milton's Paradise Lost.)

From Text of Book IV
190So clomb this first grand thief into God's fold;
So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
Thence up he flew, and on the tree of life,
The middle tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a cormorant; yet not true life
195Thereby regained, but sat devising death
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought
Of that life-giving plant, but only used
For prospect, what well used had been the pledge
Of immortality.

His far more pleasant garden God ordained;
Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow
215All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the tree of life,
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit
Of vegetable gold; and next to life,
Our death, the tree of knowledge, grew fast by,
220Knowledge of good bought dear by knowing ill.

335Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems
Fair couple, linked in happy nuptial league,
Alone as they. About them frisking played
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase
340In wood or wilderness, forest or den;
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,
Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant,
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed
345His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly,
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His braided train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass
Couched, and now filled with pasture gazing sat,
350Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,

From Text of Book V
Two onely, who yet by sov'ran gift possess
This spacious ground, in yonder shadie Bowre
To rest, and what the Garden choicest bears
To sit and taste, till this meridian heat
Be over, and the Sun more coole decline. [ 370 ]
Whom thus the Angelic Vertue answerd milde.
Adam, I therefore came, nor art thou such
Created, or such place hast here to dwell,
As may not oft invite, though Spirits of Heav'n
To visit thee; lead on then where thy Bowre [ 375 ]
Oreshades; for these mid-hours, till Eevning rise
I have at will. So to the Silvan Lodge
They came, that like Pomona's Arbour smil'd
With flourets deck't and fragrant smells; but Eve
Undeckt, save with her self more lovely fair [ 380 ]
Then Wood-Nymph, or the fairest Goddess feign'd
Of three that in Mount Ida naked strove,
Stood to entertain her guest from Heav'n; no vaile
Shee needed, Vertue-proof, no thought infirme
Alterd her cheek.

Raphael Warns Adam and Eve
(from the Butts Set)
Illustration of Paradise Lost (Wiki Common)

(the Thomas Set)

The scene is the Garden of Eden.  
Three figures sit in a bower enclosed by palms,
(Lilies also, but only in Eden)

Adam is sitting on the left; 
Eve stands in the middle.
Raphael sits on the right and describes to the couple what
the prospects of; happiness he points to the Tree of Life.

The Tree of Life is at the high central image.

Notice the hands of all three; Eve is holding a cluster of
grapes in her right hand and a holding a bowl in her left.

Both of these images display a table, 
the Thomas set is the smaller of the two.


Thursday, January 23, 2014


An impasse had been reached in the discussion between Comus and the Lady when her brothers arrive to rescue her. Although the Brothers secure Comus' glass and break it, Comus escapes with his wand without which the Lady cannot be freed from her chair. The attendant Spirit comes up with another strategy to secure the Lady's release.

From the beginning of the Mask, we have seen intimations that the Lady's condition is a consequence of her own mental disturbance. She is not of one mind in regard to remaining a child and becoming a woman. If she had drunk from Comus' cup she would have submitted to him on his terms. When that temptation is removed she is still immobilized by indecision. Because Milton leaves it unclear what prevents her from resolving her dilemma, readers are left to speculate. 

The image created for the 6th illustration in the Thomas Set reinforces the idea that the Lady's mind is confused by showing a cloud which encompasses her and includes the figments of imagination which accompanied Comus. The charming wand has not been secured by the brothers and continues to produce disturbing images. Comus has reverted  to his naked state in which be appeared in the first illustration. His role in the mask is finished.

Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 6, Thomas Set
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton

[Stage Direction]
"The Brothers rush in with Swords drawn, wrest his Glass out of his hand, and break it against the ground; his rout make signe of resistance, but are all driven in; The attendant Spirit comes in." 

Line 814
What, have you let the false enchanter scape?
O ye mistook, ye should have snatcht his wand
And bound him fast; without his rod  revers't,
And backward mutters of dissevering power,
We cannot free the Lady that sits here
In stony fetters fixt and motionless;
Yet stay, be not disturb'd, now I bethink me,
Som other means I have which may be us'd,"

In Visions of the Daughters of Albion Oothoon was able to articulate the process through which she went in understanding the abuse she experienced. After soul- searching she arrived at self-acceptance. Listen as Oothoon struggles with her sexual dilemma following her rape by her betrothed's brother.

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2 ,(E 45) 
"The Daughters of Albion hear her woes. & eccho back her sighs.   

Why does my Theotormon sit weeping upon the threshold;
And Oothoon hovers by his side, perswading him in vain:
I cry arise O Theotormon for the village dog
Barks at the breaking day. the nightingale has done lamenting.
The lark does rustle in the ripe corn, and the Eagle returns     
From nightly prey, and lifts his golden beak to the pure east;
Shaking the dust from his immortal pinions to awake
The sun that sleeps too long. Arise my Theotormon I am pure.
Because the night is gone that clos'd me in its deadly black.
They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;     
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
Till all from life I was obliterated and erased.
Instead of morn arises a bright shadow, like an eye              
In the eastern cloud: instead of night a sickly charnel house;
That Theotormon hears me not! to him the night and morn
Are both alike: a night of sighs, a morning of fresh tears;"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Frye and Symbols


Frye's thoughts and writings on Blake and Milton were assembled in a volume published by the University of Toronto Press and appropriately named Northrop Frye on Milton and Blake:
"This volume brings together all of Frye's writings on Milton and Blake from 1947 to 1987 - published and unpublished essays, reviews, commentaries, and public lectures - with the exception of Fearful Symmetry...His engagement with Blake, meanwhile, was a personal, intellectual, and spiritual quest, leading him to became the world authority on Blake in the mid-twentieth century."

Here Northrop Frye provides some of his insight into Blake's symbolic meaning of male and female (
 p 351):

"The traditional Christian symbolism, God the Creator is symbolically male, and all human souls, whether of men or of women, are creatures, and therefore symbolically female. In Blake, the real man is creating man; hence all human beings, men or women, are symbolically male. The symbolic female in Blake is what we call nature, and has four relations to humanity, depending on the quality of the vision. In the world of death, or Satan, which Blake calls Ulro, the human body is completely absorbed in the body of nature - a "dark Hermaphrodite," 

As Blake says in The Gates of Paradise (E 268). In the ordinary world of experience, which Blake calls Generation, the relation of humanity to nature is that of subject and object. In the usually frustrated and suppressed world of sexual desire, which Blake calls Beulah, the relation is that of lover and beloved, and in the purely imaginative or creative state, called Eden, the relation is of creator to creature. In the first two worlds, nature is a remote and tantalizing "female will"; in the last two she is an "emanation." 

Human women are associated with this female nature only when in their behavior they dramatize its characteristics. The relations between man and nature in the individual and historical cycle are different, and are summarized in the The Mental Travellera poem as closely related to the cyclical symbolism of twentieth-century poetry as Keats's La Belle Dame Sans Merci is to pre-Raphaelite poetry. 

The Mental Traveller traces the life of a "Boy" from infancy through manhood to death and rebirth. The boy represents humanity, and consequently the cycle he goes through can be read either individually and psychologically, or socially and historically. The latter reading is easier, and closer to the centre of gravity Blake is talking about. The poem traces a cycle, but the cycle differs from that of the single vision in that the emphasis is thrown on rebirth and return instead of on death. A female principle, nature, cycles in contrary motion against the Boy, growing young as he grown old and vice versa."