Friday, October 31, 2014


British Museum
Plate 8, Copy D
Blake first printed the eighteen plates of Europe in 1794. In the previous year King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoinette of France had been executed. It is estimated that about forty thousand people lost their lives to the Guillotine during the 'reign of terror' in 1793 and 1794. Among the causes of the French Revolution were food shortages among the poor, and disparities between the peasants and the privileged classes. Food shortages in Great Britain were a recurring problem as well, leading to periodic bread riots.


Michael T Davis writes about the severe conditions which existed when Blake was writing Europe. The year after Blake published Europe bread riots broke out because the country was in a state of near-famine.
This passage is from Michael T. Davis's article Bread riots, Britain, 1795:
"The bread riots of 1795 were a series of extensive disorders in Britain over the scarcity and high price of provisions, especially wheat and bread. Traditionally, food riots tended to be localized and transient in nature, but the bread riots of 1795 and into 1796 were more prolonged and outbreaks occurred in most regions of Britain. Palmer (1988 : 141) counts some 74 disturbances in the period 1795–6, which the most significant set of disturbances since the 1760s and 1770s. During the course of the eighteenth century, the diet of most Britons changed toward a greater dependency on wheat-based foodstuffs rather than products derived from oats or barley. In 1795, wheat yields were extremely low as an unfortunate alignment of bad weather and war brought Britain to the brink of famine. The previous year witnessed a poor harvest due to a hot, dry summer and the winter of 1794–5 was extremely cold, affecting crop production and preventing farmers from undertaking field work. The spring of 1795 was equally unfavorable to agricultural production, with bad weather further reducing market supply. At the same time, the war against revolutionary France disrupted European trade and the market balance derived from importing grain when necessary was impeded. As supply was shortened, prices began to rise quickly and sharply. Britain entered crisis mode."

The threat of famine in the wake of uprisings, drought, blight, war, and government policies, represented a cause of fear in France, Britain and throughout a Europe in turmoil. But the uneven impact of food shortages, falling most heavily on the poor, was among Blake's concerns. Blake pictures two women in Europe, Plate 8, to call attention to the fact that the privileged class escapes the hardships which the poor suffer. The wealthy woman is oblivious to the bereavement of the woman who has lost her child.

There are inscriptions above and below the image on Plate 8. The word 'Famine' serves as a title. A pencil inscription states, "Preparing to dress the Child." At the bottom is a quote from John Dryden's The Indian Emperour which has been located under the subject of Famine in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry:
"Famine so fierce that whats denied mans use
Even deadly Plants and herbs of pois'nous juice
Will Hunger Eat— and to prolong our breath
We greedily devour our certain Death.

Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34, (E 324)
"Thus Enion wails from the dark deep, the golden heavens tremble 

I am made to sow the thistle for wheat; the nettle for a nourishing dainty
I have planted a false oath in the earth, it has brought forth a poison tree
I have chosen the serpent for a councellor & the dog 
For a schoolmaster to my children
I have blotted out from light & living the dove & nightingale    
And I have caused the earth worm to beg from door to door
I have taught the thief a secret path into the house of the just
I have taught pale artifice to spread his nets upon the morning
My heavens are brass my earth is iron my moon a clod of clay
My sun a pestilence burning at noon & a vapour of death in night 

What is the price of Experience do men buy it for a song
Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No it is bought with the price
Of all that a man hath his house his wife his children
Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy
And in the witherd field where the farmer plows for bread in vain

It is an easy thing to triumph in the summers sun
And in the vintage & to sing on the waggon loaded with corn
It is an easy thing to talk of patience to the afflicted
To speak the laws of prudence to the houseless wanderer

PAGE 36 
To listen to the hungry ravens cry in wintry season
When the red blood is filld with wine & with the marrow of lambs

It is an easy thing to laugh at wrathful elements
To hear the dog howl at the wintry door, the ox in the slaughter house moan
To see a god on every wind & a blessing on every blast           
To hear sounds of love in the thunder storm that destroys our enemies house
To rejoice in the blight that covers his field, & the sickness that cuts off his children
While our olive & vine sing & laugh round our door & our children bring fruits & flowers

Then the groan & the dolor are quite forgotten & the slave grinding at the mill
And the captive in chains & the poor in the prison, & the soldier in the field
When the shatterd bone hath laid him groaning among the happier dead

It is an easy thing to rejoice in the tents of prosperity
Thus could I sing & thus rejoice, but it is not so with me!"

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Appendix 10

Nowhere are Blake and Dylan more alike than in their dependence upon biblical symbolism. Dylan is fully capable of throwing a wicked curve, when for example, one of his songs is embedded in the western ethos where clean hands evoke bad gambling men, and he suddenly switches to the imagery of Psalm 24:

"Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol

Dyan's song:
"His clothes, are dirty but his hands are clean". 

Whether he knew of Blake's letter to Trusler or not, Dylan certainly put into practice the advice of the "wisest of the Ancients [Who] consider'd what is not too Explicit as the fittest for Instruction, because it rouzes the faculties to act". 

For the intellectually curious the lure of Blake and Dylan

is identical: to find the kernel of meaning in the peculiar wrapping. Throughout his entire artistic career Dylan depended heavily upon biblical images and language. 

"Blowing in the Wind", the song that brought his first fame back in 1962, obviously evokes the words of Jesus found at John 3.8, "the wind blows where it will". For Jesus and Dylan alike the wind symbolizes Spirit. One would not be too far off to say that "Blowing in the Wind" initiated a spiritual revolution in American culture. 

Dylan's later song, "Idiot Wind", in a far different mood, still uses wind as an image of spirit. Biblical imagery can be found in every one of the twenty five albums that Dylan has released. 

But look at just one song from the John Wesley Harding record, called "The Wicked Messenger". Like so much of Blake's poetry this song is clear as mud to the biblically illiterate. 

"There was a wicked messenger--from Eli he did come. (Now the sons of Eli were worthless men;) His tongue, it could not speak, but only flatter. (they flatter with their tongue)"  

I picked up this example, almost en toto from Michael Gray's book.  

"One day he just appeared with a note in his hand..." (Devotees of the Christmas story may remember that the priest Zechaias lost his speech when he expressed scepticism over Gabriel's message that his aged wife would have a son--to be named John. Upon the birth of the child Zecharias wrote a note saying, "His name is John", and recovered his speech.) 

From Dylan's song:"The soles of my feet, I swear they're burning." 

From Isaiah 52:1  
(How beautiful upon the moutains are the feet of him who bring's good tidings.")

 The feet in biblical symbolism is often associated with the bringing of news, the messenger. And Paul, in his passage on the whole armor of God, advises the Christian to have his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace

The wicked messenger's feet are burning because he hasn't done this. 

"Blonde on Blonde" was not exactly the gospel of peace. We should realize that this like most of Dylan's songs in essentially autobiographical. He shared Blake's perspective on the oneness of the human race. He knew that fundamentally his (and our) experiences are universal. 

The song ends appropriately with this message to the messenger: "If ye cannot bring good news, then don't bring any."

Dylan likely got the burning soles from Dante who, in the third ring of the Inferno, found the simonists suspended head down with the soles of their feet licked by flames. 

"The Wicked Messenger" is more overtly biblical than most of Dylan's output, but less direct allusions abound throughout his lyrics. Not exactly a "Bible soaked Protestant", but maybe the nearest thing to it among modern artists. 

What does the future hold? Michael Gray credits Dylan, the secular artist, with the monumental achievement of lifting the popular musical. taste to the level of real art. Dylan, the Christian, creating art in the Blakean meaning of the word, must of necessity address himself to the more awesome task of raising the popular spiritual level to a Christian faith with some Intellect. Is that expecting too much of the man? or of God?  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


British Museum
Plate 7, Copy D
The inscription at the top of this plate is the word, "War."

At the bottom is a quote from William Shakespeare's Henry VI as identified in the Blake Archive:

"O war! thou Son of Hell,
Whom angry heavens do make their minister!"


On Plate 7 of Europe it is Enitharmon who is gaining expression in the natural world. The prevailing system will be hers, not Urizen's or Los's. This paradigm of order began, according to Blake at the beginning of the Christian centuries. The two underlying characteristics of it are:

"Womans love is Sin! 

That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters 
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:"

First, womans love, that which joins the essential man to his emanation (his outer expression) is labeled sinful.

Second that there is no access to Eternity in earthly life. Heaven is postponed until after death and becomes an allegory of life on earth. 

The image on Plate 7 presents striking contrasts. The muscular male wears a crown, carries a sword and is clothed in armor or protected by scales. The two winged females wear gowns and their faces present pleased expressions. The main statement made by their visages reflects the characteristics of Enitharmon's blissful world. That womans love is sin is expressed by the woman covering her breasts; that Eternal life awaits in an allegorical abode is express by the second woman's hands positioned for prayer. Blake's thesis is that the attitudes of the women induce men to engage in war. 

Europe, Plate 5, (E 62)
"Now comes the night of Enitharmons joy!                          
Who shall I call? Who shall I send?
That Woman, lovely Woman! may have dominion?
Arise O Rintrah thee I call! & Palamabron thee!
Go! tell the human race that Womans love is Sin!                 
That an Eternal life awaits the worms of sixty winters
In an allegorical abode where existence hath never come:
Forbid all joy, & from her childhood shall the little female
Spread nets in every secret path.

My weary eyelids draw towards the evening, my bliss is yet but new."    

Jerusalem, Plate 68, (E 222)
"Why trembles the Warriors limbs when he beholds thy beauty
Spotted with Victims blood: by the fires of thy secret tabernacle
And thy ark & holy place: at thy frowns: at thy dire revenge    
Smitten as Uzzah of old: his armour is softend; his spear
And sword faint in his hand, from Albion across Great Tartary
O beautiful Daughter of Albion: cruelty is thy delight
O Virgin of terrible eyes, who dwellest by Valleys of springs
Beneath the Mountains of Lebanon, in the City of Rehob in Hamath
Taught to touch the harp: to dance in the Circle of Warriors
Before the Kings of Canaan: to cut the flesh from the Victim
To roast the flesh in fire: to examine the Infants limbs
In cruelties of holiness: to refuse the joys of love: to bring
The Spies from Egypt, to raise jealousy in the bosoms of the Twelve         
Kings of Canaan: then to let the Spies depart to Meribah Kadesh
To the place of the Amalekite; I am drunk with unsatiated love
I must rush again to War: for the Virgin has frownd & refusd
Sometimes I curse & sometimes bless thy fascinating beauty
Once Man was occupied in intellectual pleasures & energies   
But now my soul is harrowd with grief & fear & love & desire
And now I hate & now I love & Intellect is no more:
There is no time for any thing but the torments of love & desire
The Feminine & Masculine Shadows soft, mild & ever varying
In beauty: are Shadows now no more, but Rocks in Horeb"

These words on Plate 7: 
"Who shall I call? Who shall I send?"

direct our attention to Isaiah 6 when the Lord asks Isaiah whom he shall send and Isaiah replies, "send me." Blake is intimating that there is a lack of understanding and distortion concerning the message of Jesus. The error will continue until the land is laid waste and the direction is changed.

Isaiah 6
[6] Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
[7] And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
[8] Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
[9] And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
[10] Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
[11] Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Appendix 9

Appendix 9
Dylan shared with Blake an extreme anti-war position. In fact he set in motion forces that eventually helped to end a war. Blake was less successful, though just as passionate. Both men moved from the overt themes of protest to the "contention against principalities and powers", and both incurred the displeasure of some of their admirers in so doing (largely posthumous ones in Blake's case).

By 1966 Dylan was acknowledged chief prophet of the American counterculture; his corrosive judgments filled the minds of the young and nurtured their spirits, while their adulation poisoned his.


"Blonde on Blonde" is his mad, infected St. Vitus Dance, chaotic, nihilistic, a paean of fallenness, and Dylan projects himself as more personally involved than Blake ever did in his most lurid passages. Dylan is Los after binding Urizen, and he proceeds to chain his creative energy to hell just as Los had done.For example Dylan and his associates may have sounded the death knell to 'machismo', at least to the North American manifestation of it, the sick masculine attitude that trivializes sexual relationships and makes of woman a plaything. 
Dylan allowed himself to be interviewed by Playboy, but his sexual values undercut the Playboy philosophy, and very likely undercut Playboy sales as well, much more than the antipornographers have ever done. Dylan disparaged possessiveness and jealousy just as Blake had done two centuries before with VDA.


Looking at Dylan's 'I ain't me, babe:
"You say you're looking for someone 
Who'll pick you up each time you fall, 
To gather flowers constantly 
And to come each time you call: 
But it ain't me, babe." 

After his first sobering up in l968 Dylan apparently turned to the experience of love as the summum bonum, and according to Michael Gray it became for about a decade Dylan's most serious alternative to a traditional religious perspective. It seemed as if he had to live through the 'female will' phase that Blake had always feared and despised. Gray tells us that the seventies decade was for Dylan an inner struggle between Sara and Christ. 'Somewhere near the climax of that struggle he wrote a song named Isis (the Egyptian Astarte), which shows how close to the Blakean position his sexual philosophy had become:

"Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child. 
What drives me to you is what drives me insane." 

Put that beside Blake's plea to his emanation:

"Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove;
Then we shall return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity." 

Dylan's marriage broke up in 1977, and two years later he made a public commitment to Christ. Afterward he attempted, to use the hackneyed phrase so often applied to Blake, to Christianize his art, so far with less acclaim than greeted his earlier music.

In style Dylan closely approaches Blake as a symbolist. Fiercely eclectic like the English poet, he drew with utmost freedom upon his entire experience for the imagery of his lyrics. This means that the listener unversed in Dylan's experience will have the same sort of problems with his lyrics like "Blowin' in the Windthat so many have had with 'Jerusalem'.

Much of it comes through as sheer gibberish to all except the few who begin. (Please don't take that in the most obvious sense.)

It helps to know the sixties Greenwich Village scene, country music, blues and rock as well as Verlaine, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, plus a few other esoteric sources. It also helps to know the Bible.

Monday, October 27, 2014


British Museum
Plate 6, Copy D
To Blake Spirits are substantial, matter is ephemeral. Blake is aware of the interplay between matter and Spirit and brings it to our attention. On Plate 6 of Europe the sons of Urizen who have existence in matter are engaged in binding the spirits of life to the Earth. The joys of Eternity cannot be realized on Earth except through spiritual sensation, but Urizen will make an attempt to drink Los's 'sparkling wine.' As a result Orc is awakened is his dark cavern by Enitharmon who assumes some of his power and energy.

You may remember that Orc is the first son of Los and Enitharmon. However, Los who has so many sterling characteristics with which we are familiar, becomes jealous of Orc. It is from the chaining of Orc by Los that he is released on the occasion of Urthona relinquishing power to Urizen. We see in the picture Enitharmon lifting the covering from Orc whose fiery nature is exhibited in his flaming hair.

Europe, Plate 4, (E 62)                 
"The shrill winds wake                                            
Till all the sons of Urizen look out and envy Los:
Sieze all the spirits of life and bind
Their warbling joys to our loud strings                          

Bind all the nourishing sweets of earth                          
To give us bliss, that we may drink the sparkling wine of Los
And let us laugh at war,
Despising toil and care,
Because the days and nights of joy, in lucky hours renew.

Arise O Orc from thy deep den,                                   
First born of Enitharmon rise!
And we will crown thy head with garlands of the ruddy vine;
For now thou art bound;
And I may see thee in the hour of bliss, my eldest born.

The horrent Demon rose, surrounded with red stars of fire,
Whirling about in furious circles round the immortal fiend.

Then Enitharmon down descended into his red light,
And thus her voice rose to her children, the distant heavens

The hand written quotes below the picture which were selected from Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry are related to the interface between the substantial things of Eternity and the shadowy things of the material world. From the Blake Archive we learn that the quotes are from Dryden's translations of Virgil and Ovid.

"Forms without body and impassive air"

"Thin shades the sports of winds are toss't
O'er dreary Plains, or tread the burning coast."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Appendix 8

The most Blakean mind of the 20th Century may belong to the folk singer, Bob Dylan. Dylan drank deeply from the Blakean springs; he obviously knew and loved Blake for many years before he surrendered to the Christian gospel.

We find Bob Dylan's Career as a Blakean Visionary & Romantic  published a year ago.
One might seek out a number of lines among Dylan's lyrics that suggest an obvious Blakean source. Or one could show the Blakean spirit active and alive in much of Dylan's art. In this section the reader is invited to look at the Blakean dimension of Dylan's structure of values implicit in his lyrical inventions. That enterprise might profitably be stretched out to great length; here are a few of the highlights: 


If Blake was the most radical poetic dissenter of his generation, then Dylan may occupy that place in ours. Blake questioned authority at the deepest level. The irreverences of Dylan's lyrics had the same meaning to his listeners: "Don't follow leaders Watch the parkin' meters". 

 Following Blake's cue the sixties generation questioned the moral and political leadership of the country in ways that had never happened before. Dylan and Blake both knew that power resides in the people, and they aimed to encourage the people to assume full responsibility for themselves. 

In that aim Dylan succeeded more significantly than did Blake, more in fact than he hoped to. In an earlier verse of the song quoted above Dylan sang, "you don't need a weatherman", and soon found a revolutionary underground emerge called the Weathermen. They sought a violent revolution, but Dylan, like Blake and Jesus before him, wanted a more fundamental revolution in the hearts of men and women. 

The phenomenal response to Dylan's early protest songs led to authority problems that Blake had never had to face. Dylan's fans wanted him for their leader, and he hated and despised that idea; he knew what would follow. He identified with the moment in Jesus' life when the crowd tried to make him king by force. 

A lot of Dylan's bizarre actions in the middle sixties were related to an attempt to avoid that destiny. In 1980 he sang the biblical scene that had haunted him.for years.
Few men have been in a better position to understand what that moment meant to Jesus. 

"The multitude wanted to make him king 
"Put a crown upon his head 
"Why did he slip away to a quiet place instead?" 

(From 'In the Garden' on 'Saved', cut in 1980)

It makes a lot of sense to compare Dylan's output of the sixties with Blake's in the nineties of his century.


 The end of each decade witnessed a meeting with the Lord, which makes it clear that each decade encompassed a spiritual journey. Dylan's life is one of the strangest odysseys, the details of which are not known to me, and may never be told. Dylan has always been at one level a very private person. Nevertheless the outline of his spiritual journey (up to now) belongs to the public and is sufficiently clear to relate to the Blakean circle of destiny which we have studied in this book. 

In Blake and in Dylan we see two men who "call no man father", who fundamentally reject all forms of outward authority. Each communes with his own spirit, and this communion leads to the same end, to the encounter with Christ the King. The passage of 200 years has obscured the drama in Blake's case, so much so that his secular students almost completely lost sight of it. 

But Dylan's conversion is too new to be anything less than a collective trauma. His secular fans were sheerly appalled, confronted with a reality which they had systematically ignored. But Dylan's Christian audience by and large have failed to note the significance of the event, largely through the minuteness of their vision. In the history of Christianity it bears comparison to the Damscus Road, or to the strange warming of John Wesley's heart. 
Any number of pages could be devoted to relating Blake and Dylan, but one significant point deserves special emphasis: 

The celebration of fallenness is the acme of the prophet's function. He points out to us what's wrong with our society, and he does this with the kind of language designed to raise things forcibly into our consciousness. Ezekiel had told Blake that his bizarre pantomimes were aimed at raising others to a perception of the infinite". Blake became pretty bizarre at times.

Both men spent their pre-Christian decade celebrating fallenness. Hopefully by now the reader will have some grasp of what I mean by Blake's celebration of fallenness. Examples of this motif in Dylan's work are too numerous to do more than sample. 

 A review of Dylan's l965 album, "Highway 61, Revisited", indicates that the denizens of Desolation Row are about as fouled up as any of Blake's giant forms. Here's verse 8 of the
song of that name: 

"Now at midnight all the agents And the superhuman crew 
Come out and round up everyone That knows more than they do 
Then they bring them to the factory ~ 
Where the heart attack machine Is strapped across their shoulders 
And then the kerosene Is brought down from the castles 
By insurance men  who go Check to see that nobody is escaping."

 Against the background of the horror in Vietnam 'To Desolation Row' and many other of Dylan's 1965 lyrics come through as a cry of pain much like Blake's Book of Urizen

Saturday, October 25, 2014


There is enormous impact to this plate if it can be experienced in its entirety. On the previous plate the Shadowy Female stated:
"I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames."

and then she:

"rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place" 

British Museum
Plate 5, Copy D

We can see the large winged figure as the immortal Shadowy Female as she is being transitioned to functioning on earth. Here she becomes involved in the sexual union which will bring forth a child:

"Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house: 
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:"

Enitharmon's crystal house is her womb, and Los's pearly clouds are his semen.

The comet is appropriately presented as the moment when the the male and female lose their distinctions for the mutuality of impregnation.  An entity from beyond the planetary sphere makes its sudden appearance with fiery portent. Blake makes it possible to look at this fiery being as either Orc, Christ or Urizen.

The first lines of Blake's text echo early lines of Milton's On the Morning of Christ's Nativity.

Milton, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
It was the Winter wilde,
While the Heav'n-born-childe,
All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies;

But Blake soon transitions from the morning of birth to the night when the 'thunders of the deep' are released by the abdication of the rule of Urthona (spirit) to Urizen (reason). What will follow is Blake's explanation of the failure of Christianity to follow the revolutionary path initiated by the entry of Christ into history. Europe is a Prophecy because Blake attempts to show his audience the way Christianity deviated form the message of Christ, and how the conditions we experience are the consequences.

Europe, Plate 3, (E 61)
                    "A PROPHECY

     The deep of winter came;                                    
     What time the secret child,
Descended thro' the orient gates of the eternal day:
War ceas'd, & all the troops like shadows fled to their abodes.

Then Enitharmon saw her sons & daughters rise around.            
Like pearly clouds they meet together in the crystal house:
And Los, possessor of the moon, joy'd in the peaceful night:
Thus speaking while his num'rous sons shook their bright fiery wings

Again the night is come 
That strong Urthona takes his rest,                              
And Urizen unloos'd from chains                                  
Glows like a meteor in the distant north
Stretch forth your hands and strike the elemental strings!
Awake the thunders of the deep."

Four Zoas, Night V, Page 59, (E 340) 
"Where is Sweet Vala gloomy prophet where the lovely form
That drew the body of Man from heaven into this dark Abyss� fields
Shew thy soul Vala shew thy bow & quiver of secret fires

Draw thy bow Vala from the depths of hell thy black bow draw 
And twang the bow string to our howlings let thine arrows black
Sing in the Sky as once they sang upon the hills of Light
When dark Urthona wept in torment of the secret pain

He wept & he divided & he laid his gloomy head
Down on the Rock of Eternity on darkness of the deep             
Torn by black storms & ceaseless torrents of consuming fire
Within his breast his fiery sons chaind down & filld with cursings

And breathing terrible blood & vengeance gnashing his teeth with pain
Let loose the Enormous Spirit in the darkness of the deep
And his dark wife that once fair crystal form divinely clear     
Within his ribs producing serpents whose souls are flames of fire

But now the times return upon thee Enitharmons womb
Now holds thee soon to issue forth. Sound Clarions of war
Call Vala from her close recess in all her dark deceit
Then rage on rage shall fierce redound out of her crystal quiver 

So sung the Demons round red Orc & round faint Enitharmon 
Sweat & blood stood on the limbs of Los in globes. his fiery Eyelids
Faded. he rouzd he siezd the wonder in his hands & went
Shuddring & weeping thro the Gloom & down into the deeps

Enitharmon nursd her fiery child in the dark deeps              
Sitting in darkness. over her Los mournd in anguish fierce
Coverd with gloom. the fiery boy grew fed by the milk
Of Enitharmon. Los around her builded pillars of iron"
These are the inscriptions which were chosen from Edward Bysshe's The Art of English Poetry. All are directed toward understanding events alluded to in the text and images as parallel to the cataclysmic entry of a comet as sign of change to come.

A Comet

Right margin:
Like some malignant
Planet that lowrs
upon the world.

These three quotes appear at the bottom of the plate:
He, like a Comet, burnd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge
In th' Arctick Skye; and from his horrid hair
Shakes Pestilence and war. ___

As the Red Comet from Saturnius sent
To fright the nations with a dire portent
With sweeping Glories glides along in air
And shakes the sparkles from his blazing hair.

Comets imparting change to times and states
Brandish your golden tresses in the Skies.

The Blake Archive gives further information on the source of the quotes:
"This pen and ink inscription appears in the margin to the right of the image. The lines are condensed from Nicholas Rowe, The Fair Penitent (1703), Act 3, Scene 1, lines 6-8. These lines are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading "Planet."
"This pen and ink inscription appears below the image. The first four lines are quoted from John Milton, Paradise Lost (1667), Book 2, lines 708-10. The next four lines are quoted from Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad (1715-20), Book 4, lines 1-3, 104, 107, 108. The final two lines are adapted from William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part I (1598), Act I, Scene 1, lines 2-3. All three passages are printed in Edward Bysshe, The Art of English Poetry, under the heading 'Comet.'" 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Appendix 7

Plowman was a Christian, and like MacDonald he immediately recognized Blake as one and showed the way for those who came after him. With some difficulty Plowman induced the noted British critic, Middleton Murry, to enter the field of Blake studies. The resulting work, 'William Blake' first published in 1933, stands alone in one important respect. One should note first that Murry began his study of Blake without an explicit Christian perspective. He might therefore more properly belong to the group of critics discussed earlier, the secular writers, except that his study of Blake led to a spiritual experience.

Murry is unique in the existential way in which he entered into Blake's spiritual journey. He responded to Blake more personally than did the other critics of his generation. Murry got Blake's message. As he tells us in his preface, "my aim has been solely to discover and as far as possible, expound the doctrine of William Blake: 'The Everlasting Gospel'. The modern type of an enthusiast, Murry did not focus on the historical setting or other source material or upon aesthetic principles, but simply on the existential impression which Blake's poetry had on him.


Murry felt great admiration for Blake's spiritual vision (See his page 218). He professed a real commitment to Blake's expression of the Christian faith, while denying that it was Christianity (See his page 250). His empathy with Blake led him to sense what Blake had understood, and what Charles Williams had failed to grasp, "that the truest Christians are always heretics" (See my page 251). The inspiration of the 'Moment of Grace, which has played so vital a part in this book, probably came originally from Murry, although he did not call it that. Unfamiliar with the concept of grace, he called it the "eternal moment of creative vision" or the "Felpham moment". Murry could not interpret Blake from the perspective of a mature and informed Christian as his friend Plowman had done. Rather Murry, starting with a rather nebulous faith, caught something of the spirit of Christ from Blake and was honest enough to confess it (See his page 219). In that respect Murry has a rare if not unique place among Blake's literary critics. 

In l948 John Davies wrote The Theology of William Blake, so far as I know the earliest attempt specifically to relate Blake's message to the Christian faith in a systematic way. Davies emphasized the traditional facets of Blake's faith and had little to say about the anti-churchly dimension of Blake's thought, which according to my reading is paramount. Davies book seems to have attracted little notice among the community of Blake scholars. 

In 1964 William Hughes wrote a study of Blake's Jerusalem. Hughes does not present himself specifically as a Christian, but his work shows a rare level of spiritual maturity. When the reader feels ready for Jerusalem, Hughes makes an excellent companion for the adventure. Hughes pointed out the link between Blake and George MacDonald._ See ' his Jerusalem, page 7. 

Thomas Altizer is famous (or notorious?) as a founder of the God is Dead movement, prominent in theological circles in the sixties. Altizer owed a lot to Nietszche, who had announced the death of God a hundred years before. But shortly after he wrote The Gospel of Christian 


Altizer published a work entitled The New Apocalypse: The Radical Christian Vision of William Blake in his introduction he called Blake "the first Christian atheist, the first visionary who chose the kenotic or self emptying path of immersing himself in the profane reality of experience as the way to the God who is all in all in Jesus". 

My own vision of Blake's faith diverges radically from Professor Altizer's. However all Blake scholars are indebted to him for his profound thoughts on the subject. In the last chapter mention was made of Norman Brown, author of Love's Body. Brown commited himself to Blake's structure of thought as Murry had done. 

I read Love's Body with an increasing sense of delight and awe. Brown may be the only person in our generation who  consciously tried to live Blake's doctrine. He understood Blake partially, like everyone else, and the parts which he emphasized are not those that have greatest meaning for me. Nevertheless I have a lot of respect for what Brown tried to do; in Love's Body he tells a fascinating story. "O Why was I born with a different face. I see things that other people don't see". 

Thursday, October 23, 2014


British Museum
Plate 4, Copy D
Plate 4 of Copy D of Europe is considered to be a continuation of the Preludium. It contains inscriptions added by Cumberland perhaps under the supervision of Blake, as do Plates 2 and 3. The transcription of the inscriptions and identification of their authors is provided by the Blake Archive. The added text can be found in The Art of English Poetry by Edward Bysshe. The lines at the top of the plate are from Samuel Garth, The Dispensary and those on the bottom from Sir Richard Blackmore, Prince Arthur (1695).

Upper Quote:
          "Storms, Tempests. &c
He views with horror next the noisy cave
Where with hoarse din imprisond tempests rave
Where clam'rous Hurricanes attempt their flight
Or whirling in tumultuous Eddies fight."

Lower quote:

"This orbs wide frame with the convulsion shakes,
Oft opens in the Storm, and often cracks,
Horror, Amazement, and Despair appear,
In all the hideous forms that Mortals fear."

On Plate 4 Blake continues the speech begun by the Shadowy Female on Plate 3. The Shadowy Female is an immortal to whom the potentiality for destructive turmoil is visible. She desires that the storms which open the cracks which let out the tumult not be released to the world of matter. But Enitharmon allows the energy which has been contained to be unleashed . The Shadowy Female retreats as her energy is transferred to Enitharmon to be bound to matter.

Europe, Plate 2, (E 61)
"Unwilling I look up to heaven! unwilling count the stars!
Sitting in fathomless abyss of my immortal shrine.
I sieze their burning power
And bring forth howling terrors, all devouring fiery kings.

Devouring & devoured roaming on dark and desolate mountains      
In forests of eternal death, shrieking in hollow trees.
Ah mother Enitharmon!
Stamp not with solid form this vig'rous progeny of fires.

I bring forth from my teeming bosom myriads of flames.
And thou dost stamp them with a signet, then they roam abroad    
And leave me void as death:
Ah! I am drown'd in shady woe, and visionary joy.

And who shall bind the infinite with an eternal band?
To compass it with swaddling bands? and who shall cherish it
With milk and honey?                                             
I see it smile & I roll inward & my voice is past.

She ceast & rolld her shady clouds
Into the secret place."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Appendix 6

The lack of enthusiasm of both Lewis and Williams for Blake probably- stemmed from a fundamental difference of temperament: Blake considered questioning authority to be a primary virtue while the two Oxford Christians considered it a paramount crime.

Owen Barfield, a close friend of the Oxford Christians was much closer to Blake in spirit than were Lewis or Williams. Many of his metaphysical constructs closely resemble those of Blake. In all liklihood they came from common sources.

Evelyn Underhill is universally recognized as a primary authority on Christian mysticism. Her many books exhaustively treat the subject. In her largest work, first published in l9ll; she numbered Blake among the leading mystics of the Christian era; she quoted Blake extensively and referred to him a dozen times in the course of her work.

 Was Blake a mystic? The question has been debated almost as much as the question of his madness. Frye has the authoritative answer: Blake was a visionary, not a mystic, and Frye explains the difference. See Fearful Symmetry, p. 8. 231

Forty years after Underhill's Mysticism Sheldon Cheney wrote a book called Men Who Have Walked with God:
"Being the story of Mysticism through the ages told in the Biographies of representative seers and saints" (Title page).

Cheney devoted Chapter Ten to William Blake:

On page 309 of  Cheney's book:

Of all the later saints, William Blake was the one least limited 
by mortal nature. He believed that the soul is, during  this time-conditioned life on earth, a wanderer from the realm of pure spirit, from an Eden that exists eternally in a Golden Age.Throughout life he kept contact with the Golden Age, with Eter-nal Childhood, through visions. Death, he said, is no more thant the soul's passage from one room to another.

"Just before he died  reported one who was there, "his countenance became fair, his eyes brightened, and he burst into singing of the things he saw in Heaven." Thus William Blake brought down to a dingy room in crowded London, for the thousandth time, some of the light of Paradise. It was apparent not only to his faithful wife, who accepted his visions as reality, but to a neighbour woman who had come in to help Mrs. Blake. Observing how the cramped, dark room had lighted up, she said simply,  
 "I have been at the death of a saint"  

Cheney treated Blake's life as a spiritual journey, though without as complete an understanding as was achieved by later and more intensive scholars.

MacDonald, Bucke, Underhill, and Cheney, all writers on and admirers of Blake, had one comon characteristic as Christians: they were individualists; none wrote under the auspices of an ecclesiastical organization. True, MacDonald served as a. dissenting minister, but his writing was not a part of his role as a clergyman. It was rather a refreshing form of escape, as well as a means of supplementing the financial pittance which he received from the church.

The essay on Blake written by T.S.Eliot and appearing in The Sacred Wood (1920) certainly belongs in any survey of Christian critics. Eliot, a prominent religious poet and practically the arbiter of literary taste in England between the two World Wars, might be expected to have discerned the spiritual dimension of Blake's poetry. Writing at the age of 32 he showed a healthy respect for Blake's greatness. In his essay Eliot expressed some valuable and creative insights about Blake. For example Blake, with some other literary giants, had a "peculiar honesty which, in a world too frightened to be honest, is peculiarly terrifying" and "Blake's poetry has the unpleasantness of great poetry".

A few pages on Blake "was naked and he saw men naked". These and other comments in his essay are incisive in a way that reveals why Eliot's contemporaries held such awe. Unfortunately Eliot failed fully to appreciate Blake's spiritual greatness. Eight years later he tells us in extenuation that when he wrote The Sacred Wood, he had not yet become interested in the relationship between poetry and the realm of the spirit. 

However The Sacred Wood was written presumably before Eliot became a Christian.


Still writing as an aesthete. Eliot developed into the kind of high churchman least apt to find Blake's anti-priestly stance attractive. In fact one is tempted to suspect that Blake became more terrifying to him as he went through life.

In his twenties he explained in the clearest possible terms spiritual realities that the secular critics had stumbled over. Only a mature Christian can deal adequately with Blake's Christian iconoclasm, one who readily distinguishes between substance and form in the Christian life.

Those outside the Christian faith rather uniformly equate Christianity with its ecclesiastical expressions. Blake of all people showed the distinction ("the outward ceremony is Antichrist."), but in order to discern this fully one must in some sense share his spiritual perspective; no amount of material knowledge in itself will suffice.