Monday, April 20, 2015

SUFFERING OF ALBION

Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem
Plate 84
Blake saw the alienation which Albion experienced manifested in multiple ways. There was the isolation he felt because of the loss of his perception of the Eternal. There was the internal contention which arose from the imbalance among the demands of his psychic factions. And he saw Albion's alienation expressed in the failure of humanity to live in a harmonious community of brotherhood.

 

If man could become conscious of the source of the suffering within himself and surrounding himself, it would become intolerable. The hardness of his heart would be melted and he would be consumed by the pity, love and compassion which could heal the world's wounds. 
 

From: An Interview Conducted with Kathleen Raine on July 12, 1993 by Donald E. Stanford:

"Yeats describes genius as bringing together at certain moments the waking and the sleeping mind. The available knowledge is greater in states of inspiration. Blake certainly had this. There is much suffering, as your critic says, in the writings of Blake: the turmoil, the anguish of Jerusalem. But this was not a personal thing; he was talking about the nation. He was a spiritual patriot, and he was speaking of the suffering of the giant Albion, as he calls the English nation. He was a prophet in the sense of the Old Testament prophets in the Jewish Bible, who also were speaking for their nation. They were not speaking of their individual suffering; they were speaking of the national psyche, if you like, into which Blake had certainly a remarkably clear insight. He speaks of living. He says, “in South Molton Street I see and hear” what is going on in the soul of Albion, which is, of course, the soul of England. In other words, here in South Moulton Street I both see and hear the sufferings of the military, or the war against France that broke out after the French Revolution, of the conscription of soldiers, and the suffering of child labor, the endless sufferings of his people at that time, the hangings of boys at Tyburn for the theft of a yard of cloth, the injustices, the national crimes against which Blake spoke out. You may say these were descriptions of deep, deep suffering, the psychological sufferings of various kinds of mental and physical and spiritual tyrannies in his nation at the time. I wonder what he would have been writing about had he lived now. Certainly many things would have been the same — perhaps not all — but when he writes of London and marking, “in every face marks of weakness, marks of woe,” he felt the collective suffering: that was the nature of his inspiration. He was not a personal poet expressing himself. He was a
national prophet, calling to his nation to awake from their “deadly sleep,” which is unconsciousness of what is going on, and to awake to the truths of the imagination and to reform many things. This is not madness."


Jerusalem, Plate 34 [38], (E 180) 
"Thus speaking; the Divine Family follow Albion:
I see them in the Vision of God upon my pleasant valleys.

I behold London; a Human awful wonder of God!
He says: Return, Albion, return! I give myself for thee:         
My Streets are my, Ideas of Imagination.
Awake Albion, awake! and let us awake up together.
My Houses are Thoughts: my Inhabitants; Affections,
The children of my thoughts, walking within my blood-vessels,
Shut from my nervous form which sleeps upon the verge of Beulah  
In dreams of darkness, while my vegetating blood in veiny pipes,
Rolls dreadful thro' the Furnaces of Los, and the Mills of Satan.
For Albions sake, and for Jerusalem thy Emanation
I give myself, and these my brethren give themselves for Albion.

So spoke London, immortal Guardian! I heard in Lambeths shades:  
In Felpham I heard and saw the Visions of Albion
I write in South Molton Street, what I both see and hear
In regions of Humanity, in Londons opening streets."

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 99, (E 371)
"Then All in Great Eternity Met in the Council of God 
as one Man Even Jesus upon Gilead & Hermon            
Upon the Limit of Contraction to create the fallen Man
The Fallen Man stretchd like a Corse upon the oozy Rock
Washd with the tides Pale overgrown with weeds  
That movd with horrible dreams hovring high over his head
Two winged immortal shapes one standing at his feet
Toward the East one standing at his head toward the west
Their wings joind in the Zenith over head     
Such is a Vision of All Beulah hovring over the Sleeper     

The limit of Contraction now was fixd & Man began
To wake upon the Couch of Death   he sneezed seven times
A tear of blood dropped from either eye again he reposd
In the saviours arms, in the arms of tender mercy & loving kindness

Then Los said I behold the Divine Vision thro the broken Gates
Of thy poor broken heart astonishd melted into Compassion & Love
And Enitharmon said I see the Lamb of God upon Mount Zion     
Wondring with love & Awe they felt the divine hand upon them  

For nothing could restrain the dead in Beulah from descending
Unto Ulros night tempted by the Shadowy females sweet    
Delusive cruelty they descend away from the Daughters of Beulah
And Enter Urizens temple Enitharmon pitying & her heart
Gates broken down. they descend thro the Gate of Pity
The broken heart Gate of Enitharmon She sighs them forth upon the wind
Of Golgonooza Los stood recieving them         
For Los could enter into Enitharmons bosom & explore
Its intricate Labyrinths now the Obdurate heart was broken"
 
___________________________________________________________
Thanks to remarks from Susan on her own blog, I append this passage form Ezekiel with the reminder that, to Blake, Israel symbolically was synonymous with Albion (England) in its fallenness and potential or redemption.

Ezekiel 36
[7] Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame.
[8] But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.
[9] For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown:
[10] And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded:
[11] And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
[12] Yea, I will cause men to walk upon you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess thee, and thou shalt be their inheritance, and thou shalt no more henceforth bereave them of men.

...
[24] For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.
[25] Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
[26] A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
[27] And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
[28] And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

 

3 comments:

Susan J. said...

Hi Ellie -

I've been thinking about Albion a lot lately - not so much Blake's, but rather the present-day Brits leading up to national elections, debating their role in the salvation of the north African boat people, trying to find their way in the wide wide world. Reading these passages on "Suffering of Albion" help bring me back to some sort of centered reflection -- thanks so much!!!!

much love from your friend,

Susan

ellie said...

I sit in the safety and comfort of my home and talk of suffering as if I know something about it. I pray that God will soften my heart and give me a contrite spirit.

Together we can live, and learn and love,
ellie

Susan J. said...

amen to that, my sister!