Saturday, March 08, 2014


(From Damon, page 386): "the stars symbolize Reason"; they belong to Urizen; in Eternity they were part of Albion, but with the Fall they fled, and formed the Mundane Shell. Blake also provided a redemptive dimension to stars.

   Time and Space are creatures like Adam and Eve. Blake tells us that Los created time and Enitharmon space. The magnificent Arlington Tempera is often called the Sea of Time and Space.
      Water symbolizes matter or the material world. In Genesis God moved over the face of the waters. Here it stands for chaos. Creation was made out of chaos, but in Blake's myth water continuously symbolizes the fall from Eternity into materiality. Narciss fell in love with his watery shadow-- and chose it for his life. Albion did the same in his descent from Eternity into the water of material life.


Notes on Thel: Har is the place of primeval innocence where Thel lived until her unhappy journey into time and space. (Damon p. 174) (Har has an entirely different meaning in the poem, Tiriel.)
      This figure suggests

the Cave of the Nymphs, used by Blake in the Arlington Tempera, a painting portraying man's descent into the Sea of Time and Space (by the "northern bar"). This reference in Thel is an early example of a mythological figure much more extravagantly elaborated at a later date with the painting. (Kathleen Raines' book Blake and Tradition gives a good source for interpretation of the Cave of the Nymphs as used by Blake.)

Cave of the Nymphs

The northern and southern gates symbolize the descent of human beings from the Eternal into the material via the northern gate and the return to the Eternal via the southern. The Book of Thel amply demonstrates that where "The eternal gates' terrific Porter lifted the northern bar" and Thel, an eternal being "entered the land of sorrows".

      Pity meant to Blake (and perhaps for 18th century English) something entirely different from its general current connotation. It was much closer to compassion than it is in our day.
   According to the Blake Concordance the word is mentioned 178 times in Blake's Complete Works. But the poem that best defines the meaning that pity had for him is The Divine Image from Songs of Innocence.
      In Plate 7 of Blake's Milton we read about the "three classes of mortal men": the elect (self-righteous), the redeemed (saved sinners), and the reprobate (prophets harried from place to place).

  • "Each man is in his Spectre's power until the arrival of that hour when his Humanity awake and cast his Spectre in the lake."
   (Jerusalem, plate 37 E184)

      Ulro: this material world; also called the 'seat of Satan' as in 'the ruler of this present world".
   Tirzah is one of Blake's bad women; for a short poem where Blake vividly describes his use of the word look at To Tirzah.
The word unbelief, used by Blake was much like what Jesus railed about, while using the positive mode. Neither of them meant by unbelief failure to adhere to the intellectual propositions which are supposed to define the Christian faith. For both men belief meant commitment to the reality of a loving God.
Ulro This world (in the same sense the term is used in the New Testament); also this vale of tears; also the seat of Satan, and a dread sleep (many such usages in 4Z)
Urizen The Zoa who represented Reason. In Blake's thought he became closely related to Nobodaddy, the unforgiving and cruel Old Testament God. In 'Milton' Blake describes the contest between the old god, Urizen and 'Milton' (a surrogate here for Christ). It's a vivid description of the humanizing of God that came to us with the words of Jesus, about the loving heavenly father.
Vala The original name of the Four Zoas was Vala. In Blake's mythology she was the consort of Luvah (the god of love). Vala represents woman in general; she is also called Tirzah (purely earthly woman) and Jerusalem (heavenly woman).
   In Jerusalem, after the Moment of Grace, Blake wrote "The Wheel of Religion". In it he showed once again the difference between false and true Christianity, using almost entirely biblical figures:

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