Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Book of Milton

This is the Frontspiece of The Book of Milton, the first of two Prophetic Masterpieces, produced after his return in 1804 from Hayley's domination at Felpham (by the sea).

Notice the lettering on the four sides:
at the top MIL, on the side  TON a 
POEM in 2 BOOKS, on the left side 
The Author and PRINTER W BLAKE 1804, and at the bottom:
To Justify the Ways of God to Men.

Turning the page (to Plate 1) we see a large STAR for Milton but between these two plates is the Preface:



                            a Poem in 2 Books

                    The Author & Printer W Blake 1804

                    To justify the Ways of God to Men

PLATE 1 [i]


The Stolen and Perverted Writings of Homer & Ovid: of Plato &
Cicero. which all Men ought to contemn: are set up by artifice
against the Sublime of the Bible. but when the New Age is at
leisure to Pronounce; all will be set right: & those Grand Works
of the more ancient & consciously & professedly Inspired Men,
will hold their proper rank, & the Daughters of Memory shall
become the Daughters of Inspiration. Shakspeare & Milton were
both curbd by the general malady & infection from the silly Greek
& Latin slaves of the Sword.

Blake tells us here that the most famous poets and writers of the far past
refuted the sublime Bible with their warlike ideas. (Quakers would certainly agree.)

     Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads
against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the
Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for
ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War. Painters! on you I
call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fash[i]onable Fools
to depress your powers by the prices they pretend to give for
contemptible works or the expensive advertizing boasts that they
make of such works; believe Christ & his Apostles that there is a
Class of Men whose whole delight is in Destroying. We do not 
want either Greek or Roman Models if we are but just & true to
our own Imaginations, those Worlds of Eternity in which we shall
live for ever; in Jesus our Lord.

For Blake the New Age was now. Curiously Blake equated his age with 
what Swedenborg had said about the coming of the New Age. Of course
thousands or millions of people have longed for and expected the
arrival of the 'New Age'. He invites us to turn away from preoccupation
with war (the 'Greek or Roman Models) and choose "our own imagination",
which contain "those Worlds of Eternity".

What follows is the famous hymn which came to be called Jerusalem:
 And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.  

Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets.
Numbers XI. ch 29 v.
(Erdman 95-6)

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