Friday, May 15, 2015


Ackland Art Museum, UNC
Breach in the City the Morning after a Battle
Blake exhibited two painting at the Royal Academy April 1784. The pictures were inscribed Breach in the City the Morning after a Battle, and War unchained by an Angel Fire, Pestilence and Famine, Following. Blake's work received unfavorable criticism in the Morning Chronicle of May 27. Although Breach in the City (of 1784) is believed lost, Blake did not abandon the idea which had inspired it. Three similar compositions, which still exist, were executed before 1805.


The city was an image Blake used for the condition of humanity. London was humanity in the throes of experience, struggling to be set free from forces which limited mankind's development. Babylon was mankind which had sunk into depravity in pursuing empire. Jerusalem, whose name means peace, was mankind under the guidance of her better angels. Jerusalem was the realization of the vision of God within the Soul. Babylon and Jerusalem were contraries. Golgonooza was the attempt to make Jerusalem manifest in the temporal world.

If the city is breached, mankind becomes susceptible to losing the ground he has gained in his efforts to realize Jerusalem. Blake returned to the image of the breach in the city because it represented the results of following 'the Serpent.' Such activities as war and greed and vengeance are deadly in themselves, but more threatening is the consequences borne by those not directly involved.
Vision of Last Judgment, (E 563)
"By this it will be seen that I do not consider either the Just
or the Wicked to be in a Supreme State but to be every one of
them States of the Sleep which the Soul may fall into in its
Deadly Dreams of Good & Evil when it leaves Paradise
following the Serpent"

Jerusalem,Plate 43 [29], (E 199)
"Then the Divine Vision like a silent Sun appeard above
Albions dark rocks: setting behind the Gardens of Kensington
On Tyburns River, in clouds of blood: where was mild Zion Hills
Most ancient promontory, and in the Sun, a Human Form appeard
And thus the Voice Divine went forth upon the rocks of Albion   

I elected Albion for my glory; I gave to him the Nations,
Of the whole Earth. he was the Angel of my Presence: and all
The Sons of God were Albions Sons: and Jerusalem was my joy.
The Reactor hath hid himself thro envy. I behold him.
But you cannot behold him till he be reveald in his System      
Albions Reactor must have a Place prepard: Albion must Sleep
The Sleep of Death, till the Man of Sin & Repentance be reveald.
Hidden in Albions Forests he lurks: he admits of no Reply
From Albion: but hath founded his Reaction into a Law
Of Action, for Obedience to destroy the Contraries of Man[.]    
He hath compelld Albion to become a Punisher & hath possessd
Himself of Albions Forests & Wilds! and Jerusalem is taken!
The City of the Woods in the Forest of Ephratah is taken!
London is a stone of her ruins; Oxford is the dust of her walls!
Sussex & Kent are her scatterd garments: Ireland her holy place!
And the murderd bodies of her little ones are Scotland and Wales
The Cities of the Nations are the smoke of her consummation
The Nations are her dust! ground by the chariot wheels
Of her lordly conquerors, her palaces levelld with the dust

I come that I may find a way for my banished ones to return     
Fear not O little Flock I come! Albion shall rise again.

So saying, the mild Sun inclosd the Human Family."   

Further reading in article by Viscomi.

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