Friday, August 22, 2014


The word, redeem appears 41 times in Blake's poetry; for him 'redeem' had several meanings, especially the way it's commonly used or the ironic sense that was so familiar to him:

Spring like redeemed captives, common.

The State namd Satan never can be redeemd in all Eternity, ironic.

His myth speaks of three kinds of men:

from Plates 6 and 7 of Milton:

Here the Three Classes of Mortal Men take their fixd destinations
And hence they overspread the Nations of the whole Earth & hence
The Web of Life is woven: & the tender sinews of life created
And the Three Classes of Men regulated by Los's hammer.


The first, The Elect from before the foundation of the World:

The second, The Redeem'd. The Third, The Reprobate & form'd
To destruction from the mothers womb:
The morning comes, the night decays, the watchmen leave their
The grave is burst, the spices shed, the linen wrapped up;
The bones of death, the cov'ring clay, the sinews shrunk & dry'd.
Reviving shake, inspiring move, breathing! awakening!


Printed by William Blake in the year 1793.
Let the slave grinding at the mill, run out into the field:
Let him look up into the heavens & laugh in the bright air;
Let the inchained soul shut up in darkness and in sighing,
Whose face has never seen a smile in thirty weary years;
Rise and look out, his chains are loose, his dungeon doors are
And let his wife and children return from the opressors scourge;
They look behind at every step & believe it is a dream.
Singing. The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher
And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night;
For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease.

From the Four Zoas, Night 7:
The Spectre of Urthona wept before Los Saying I am the cause
That this dire state commences I began the dreadful state
Of Separation & on my dark head the curse & punishment
Must fall unless a way be found to Ransom & Redeem
But I have thee my [Counterpart Vegetating] miraculous
These Spectres have no [Counter(parts)] therefore 
they ravin
Without the food of life Let us Create them Coun[terparts]
For without a Created body the Spectre is Eternal Death
Los trembling answerd Now I feel the weight of stern repentance
Tremble not so my Enitharmon at the awful gates
Of thy poor broken Heart I see thee like a shadow withering
As on the outside of Existence but look! behold! take comfort!
Turn inwardly thine Eyes & there behold the Lamb of God
Clothed in Luvahs robes of blood descending to redeem
(Erdman 369)

PLATE 5 of Milton: 
 Palamabron with the fiery Harrow in morning returning
From breathing fields. Satan fainted beneath the artillery
Christ took on Sin in the Virgins Womb, & put it off on the Cross
All pitied the piteous & was wrath with the wrathful & Los heard
There is a State namd Satan learn distinct to know O Rahab
The Difference between States & Individuals of those States
The State namd Satan never can be redeemd in all Eternity
But when Luvah in Orc became a Serpent he des[c]ended into
That State calld Satan Enitharmon breathd forth on the Winds
Of Golgonooza her well beloved knowing he was Orc's human remains
She tenderly lovd him above all his brethren he grew up
In mothers tenderness The Enormous worlds rolling in Urizens
Must have given Satan by these mild arts Dominion over all
(Erdman 380-81)


Vincent said...

Thanks Larry for pointing out these powerful concepts, and how they fit together. One can look at humanity today and divide them in imagination thus: irredeemable; ready for redemption or redeemed in this life; and the Elect who've never fallen in the first place.

But just because the imagination can easily fall into such facile prejudice, does not make it either desirable or connected with any valuable truth. The prejudice of the sage is still prejudice, just as righteous anger is still anger.

I see Blake as yet another interpreter of scripture who sees in it what he wants or needs to see, & am grateful to you & Ellie for the monumental task of showing him under a microscope, his greatness and human fallibility.

Though it doesn't mention Blake, I do recommend Karen Armstrong's book, The Bible: a biography, which traces how this compilation was put together and has inspired readers over the millennia. Simultaneously it traces the history of both Judaism and Christianity as they are affected by the scriptures therein

Larry said...

Thanks, Vincent; I've read a lot of Karen Armstrong through the years, but I don't recall the one you cited; I've reserved it in my library.

Re Elect; they are not what they seem to be; look at Milton, Plate 25:
"The Awakener is come. outstretchd over Europe! the Vision of God
is fulfilled
The Ancient Man upon the Rock of Albion Awakes,
He listens to the sounds of War astonishd & ashamed;
He sees his Children mock at Faith and deny Providence
Therefore you must bind the Sheaves not by Nations or Families
You shall bind them in Three Classes; according to their Classes
So shall you bind them. Separating What has been Mixed
Since Men began to be Wove into Nations by Rahab & Tirzah
Since Albions Death & Satans Cutting-off from our awful Fields;
When under pretence to benevolence the Elect Subdud All
From the Foundation of the World. The Elect is one Class: You
Shall bind them separate: they cannot Believe in Eternal Life
Except by Miracle & a New Birth. The other two Classes;
The Reprobate who never cease to Believe, and the Redeemd,
Who live in doubts & fears perpetually tormented by the Elect
These you shall bind in a twin-bundle for the Consummation--
But the Elect must be saved [from] fires of Eternal Death,
To be formed into the Churches of Beulah that they destroy not
the Earth."

You might say that the Elect are the Church, something that Blake had little use for.

Vincent said...

Oh, this is very interesting. The OED reveals that these three classes of men relate to theological terms, not particular to Blake, though his satirical interpretations clearly are.

I quote:

Elect (adj & noun) spec. in Theol. Chosen by God, esp. for salvation or eternal life. Opposed to reprobate. Often absol. with plural sense, the elect.

Reprobate (noun) Theol. A person who has been rejected by God, an unredeemed sinner; spec. a person who has been predestined by God to eternal damnation.

Redeemed (adj) Of a person, a soul, etc.: saved or delivered from sin, damnation, or criminality.

Blake then is clearly on the side of the reprobate, and I take back any slur implicit in my first comment.

ellie said...

More light on the three classes:

"The contraries when bound together are prepared for the consummation or transformation by fire or spirit to higher consciousness. The negation cannot advance but must continue in the cycle of struggle until its limitations are recognized."