Although we are first struck by the resemblance of the motif of sleep in the myth of King Arthur and Blake's myth of Albion, there is another remarkable correspondence. The female characters in the myth of Arthur are the source of much of the difficulties which destroy the kingdom. Arthur's queen Guenevere proves to be unfaithful to him. His half sister Morgan, together with her son lead the rebellion which results in the end of the fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table. Merlin loses his freedom and power to the woman who was his protege. Furthermore the motif of the virginal maiden who exercises dominion over and requires devotion from her knight is prominent in the story.
We see in Enitharmon, Vala and Enion the same characteristics displayed in the women of Camelot. Enitharmon, as the queen of heaven is most like Guenevere, queen of Camelot. They both turn from their own men to others. Enitharmon aligns herself with Urizen or the Spectre. Guenevere chooses Arthur's 'best knight' as her paramour. Each woman rules in a world where the characteristics of the female are designed to undermine the role which the male should play.
Vala like Morgan is bent on obscuring and subverting the culmination of the possibility for achieving the unifying vision.
Enion like Nimue prevents the vision of wholeness from being revealed by withdrawing and fleeing.
|Yale Center for British Art
Blake is speaking of more than the unpleasantness that results when men allow themselves to serve bossy women, he is writing about the consequences of the active, inner, spiritual principle becoming subservient to the passive, outer, material principle.
Here is the situation as presented in William Blake's Circle of Destiny by Milton O Percival:
"It is easy to see, then, how great is the violence done to the divine plan when man, in his impiety, begins to reason about his apparently dual self and sets the feminine contrary above the masculine - the emanation above its spiritual source...The principles of life are thrown into reverse. The effect is taken as the cause. The emotional life takes precedence over the intellectual life. Beulah sets itself up as Eden. When this happens Eden and Beulah are both lost, and the sexual strife of the sundered contraries is set up in Ulro. The struggle in Ulro takes many forms. It the emotions threatening to engulf the intelligence. It is outward nature threatening to extinguish the inner light. It is conventional technique warring against original genius. It is the moral ideal of a passive rather than an active good. In brief, the division is fourfold - of the head, heart, loins, and body, with all they imply." (Page 95)
Jerusalem, Plate 64, (E 215) "Of the Mundane Shell which froze on all sides round Canaan on The vast Expanse: where the Daughters of Albion Weave the Web Of Ages & Generations, folding & unfolding it, like a Veil of Cherubim And sometimes it touches the Earths summits, & sometimes spreads Abroad into the Indefinite Spectre, who is the Rational Power.
Then All the Daughters of Albion became One before Los: even Vala! And she put forth her hand upon the Looms in dreadful howlings Till she vegetated into a hungry Stomach & a devouring Tongue. Her Hand is a Court of Justice, her Feet: two Armies in Battle Storms & Pestilence: in her Locks: & in her Loins Earthquake. And Fire. & the Ruin of Cities & Nations & Families & Tongues She cries: The Human is but a Worm, & thou O Male: Thou art Thyself Female, a Male: a breeder of Seed: a Son & Husband: & Lo. The Human Divine is Womans Shadow, a Vapor in the summers heat Go assume Papal dignity thou Spectre, thou Male Harlot! Arthur Divide into the Kings of Europe in times remote O Woman-born And Woman-nourishd & Woman-educated & Woman-scorn'd! Wherefore art thou living? said Los, & Man cannot live in thy presence Art thou Vala the Wife of Albion O thou lovely Daughter of Luvah All Quarrels arise from Reasoning. the secret Murder, and The violent Man-slaughter. these are the Spectres double Cave The Sexual Death living on accusation of Sin & judgment To freeze Love & Innocence into the gold & silver of the Merchant Without Forgiveness of Sin Love is Itself Eternal Death Then the Spectre drew Vala into his bosom magnificent terrific"
Jerusalem, Plate 88, (E 246) "For Man cannot unite with Man but by their Emanations Which stand both Male & Female at the Gates of each Humanity How then can I ever again be united as Man with Man While thou my Emanation refusest my Fibres of dominion. When Souls mingle & join thro all the Fibres of Brotherhood Can there be any secret joy on Earth greater than this? Enitharmon answerd: This is Womans World, nor need she any Spectre to defend her from Man. I will Create secret places And the masculine names of the places Merlin & Arthur. A triple Female Tabernacle for Moral Law I weave That he who loves Jesus may loathe terrified Female love Till God himself become a Male subservient to the Female. She spoke in scorn & jealousy, alternate torments; and So speaking she sat down on Sussex shore singing lulling Cadences, & playing in sweet intoxication among the glistening Fibres of Los:"