Sunday, March 29, 2015


Imagination in the mental realm, and art in the physical realm occupied the pinnacle of human aspiration in the view of Blake. He felt that the finest minds should be devoted to producing works which elevate humanity to achieving the maximum of his potential development. It disturbed Blake that some of the artists and authors who had received the greatest gifts for expressing themselves, had devoted their talents to lesser enterprises. Blake undoubtedly admired Homer but he missed in Homer the ability to be a vehicle through whom God spoke as he spoke through Old and New Testament prophets.

The substance for Blake was the dynamic of bringing together of portions of the psyche which had been divided. War is not only outward conflict, but also the unresolved divisions within the mind. If the Greeks elevated war as the appropriate way to resolve conflicting interests, they led mankind to a lower level of consciousness. The higher consciousness draws man into a vision of completeness within himself and with his brother who appears to be different.    

Blake showed in the Arlington Tempera the teaching of Homer which was most compatible to his own thinking. It shows how mankind progresses by going through a cycle of falling asleep as he forgets higher truth, and awakening after having learned through experiencing the world of matter. Progress is not made by defeating an enemy but by finding within oneself the ability to incorporate the not-self into the self.

Wikimedia Commons
This freestanding plate was engraved in 1822 the year after Blake painted the Arlington Tempera. Blake withheld unqualified admiration from Homer and Virgil because they did not reject aspects of their cultures which perpetrated war and empire.
"Every Poem must necessarily be a perfect Unity, but why Homers is
peculiarly so, I cannot tell: he has told the story of
Bellerophon & omitted the judgment of Paris which is not only a
part, but a principal part of Homers subject
  But when a Work has Unity it is as much in a Part as in the
Whole. the Torso is as much a Unity as the Laocoon
  As Unity is the cloke of folly so Goodness is the cloke of
knavery  Those who will have Unity exclusively in Homer come out
with a Moral like a sting in the tail: Aristotle says Characters
are either Good or Bad: now Goodness or Badness has nothing to do
with Character. an Apple tree a Pear tree a Horse a Lion, are
Characters but a Good Apple tree or a Bad, is an Apple tree
still: a Horse is not more a Lion for being a Bad Horse. that is
its Character; its Goodness or Badness is another consideration.
  It is the same with the Moral of a whole Poem as with the Moral Goodness
of its parts Unity & Morality, are secondary considerations &
belong to Philosophy & not to Poetry, to Exception & not to Rule,
to Accident & not to Substance. the Ancients calld it eating of
the tree of good & evil.
  The Classics, it is the Classics! & not Goths nor Monks, that
Desolate Europe with Wars.                                                            

ON VIRGIL                                      
Sacred Truth has pronounced that Greece & Rome as Babylon &
Egypt: so far from being parents of Arts & Sciences as they
pretend: were destroyers of all Art.  Homer Virgil & Ovid confirm
this opinion & make us reverence The Word of God, the only light
of antiquity that remains unperverted by War.  Virgil in the
Eneid Book VI. line 848 says Let others study Art: Rome has
somewhat better to do, namely War & Dominion
  Rome & Greece swept Art into their maw & destroyd it     a
Warlike State never can produce Art.  It will Rob & Plunder &
accumulate into one place, & Translate & Copy & Buy & Sell &
Criticise, but not Make.
  Mathematic Form is Eternal in the Reasoning Memory.  Living
Form is Eternal Existence.
  Grecian is Mathematic Form
  Gothic is Living Form" 
Our blog has 23 posts labeled Arlington Tempera. Here is one which may shed some light.

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