Saturday, January 11, 2014


Unable to locate their sister or return to her after seeking food to sustain her, the brothers discussed her danger and her ability to protect herself. They have met, disguised as a villager, Comus who is seeking to locate the girl whose singing he had heard. Blake uses his third illustration to stress the situations portrayed by various characters. Comus with his aim to decieve and tempt the young lady, walks modestly in his long robe, carrying his walking stick and politely removing his hat. The Lady sits far removed from her brothers on the edge of the forest in which she has been lost and distressed. Above her the guardian attendant Spirit hovers surrounded  by light. The brothers have found the fruit they sought but are unaware that the innocent looking villager represents a threat to the Lady's and their own innocence.
Blake creates an inconsistency by picturing the brothers harvesting grapes from the vine. It is Comus who is associated with grapes and the wine they produce. Milton specifically cites Comus as being much like his father Bacchus who is the 'god of wine, freedom, intoxication and ecstasy'. The pleasure palace to which Comus wishes to lure the Lady is a Bacchanalia.

The younger brother fears for the Lady's safety. The elder brother believes the Lady's 'Virgin purity' will be protected by her 'hidden strength': chastity. In this third illustration both brothers are oblivious to their sister's precarious position.

Original in Huntington Gallery
Milton's Comus
Illustration 3,Thomas Set
A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634
John Milton
Line 398
"You may as well spred out the unsun'd heaps
Of Misers treasure by an out-laws den,
And tell me it is safe, as bid me hope
Danger will wink on Opportunity,
And let a single helpless maiden pass
Uninjur'd in this wilde surrounding wast.
Of night, or lonelines it recks me not,
I fear the dred events that dog them both,
Lest som ill greeting touch attempt the person
Of our unowned sister.

Line 413
Eld. Bro.
My sister is not so defenceless left
As you imagine, she has a hidden strength
Which you remember not.

2 Bro. What hidden strength,
Unless the strength of Heav'n, if you mean that?

Eld. Bro. I mean that too, but yet a hidden strength
Which if Heav'n gave it, may be term'd her own:
'Tis chastity, my brother, chastity:
She that has that, is clad in compleat steel,
And like a quiver's Nymph with Arrows keen
May trace huge Forests, and unharbour'd Heaths,
Infamous Hills, and sandy perilous wildes,
Where through the sacred rayes of Chastity,
No savage fierce, Bandite, or mountaneer
Will dare to soyl her Virgin purity,"

 Blake is aware of the intensity of the struggles which take place in human minds between following the inspiration of the Poetic Genius and submitting to the Tempter. In this passage from Jerusalem we see Los struggling against Albion's Sons to save Enitharmon:
Jerusalem, Plate 17, (E 161)
"They [Albion's sons] wooe Los continually to subdue his strength: he continually 
Shews them his Spectre: sending him abroad over the four points of heaven
In the fierce desires of beauty & in the tortures of repulse! He is
The Spectre of the Living pursuing the Emanations of the Dead.
Shuddring they flee: they hide in the Druid Temples in cold chastity:
Subdued by the Spectre of the Living & terrified by undisguisd desire.   

For Los said: Tho my Spectre is divided: as I am a Living Man
I must compell him to obey me wholly: that Enitharmon may not
Be lost: & lest he should devour Enitharmon: Ah me!
Piteous image of my soft desires & loves: O Enitharmon!
I will compell my Spectre to obey: I will restore to thee thy Children. 
No one bruises or starves himself to make himself fit for labour!

Tormented with sweet desire for these beauties of Albion
They would never love my power if they did not seek to destroy
Enitharmon: Vala would never have sought & loved Albion
If she had not sought to destroy Jerusalem; such is that false   
And Generating Love: a pretence of love to destroy love:

Cruel hipocrisy unlike the lovely delusions of Beulah:
And cruel forms, unlike the merciful  forms of Beulahs Night

They know not why they love nor wherefore they sicken & die
Calling that Holy Love: which is Envy Revenge & Cruelty          
Which separated the stars from the mountains: the mountains from Man
And left Man, a little grovelling Root, outside of Himself."

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