First published by Larry on Thursday, May 13, 2010.
Illustrations to Poems of Thomas Gray
St. Paul used more elegant language: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). That verse, prominent in my memory for many years, acquired new poignancy the other day as I was contemplating Blake's Selfhood: annihilate it!
The Selfhood goes in the circular file, but neither Blake nor you and I could do that overnight; oh no! We had to work it out with fear and trembling. The Spectre is the Selfhood, and Blake wrote:
"My spectre around me night and day
Like a wild beast guards my way;"
in the poem that has been discussed so often in this blog.
Blake had to discover his preconceived notions, his pet peeves, his resentments of everyone from Bacon, Newton, and Locke to Hayley. Once he discovered them and confessed his error, that aspect of his Selfhood was annihilated, and the Last Judgment fell upon him. In Plate 98, near the end of Jerusalem and of his poetry he joined Bacon and Newton and Locke with those he had always loved, Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer. It was the testimony of a happy man.
C. S. Lewis, near the end of his greatest story, Till We Have Faces, shared his Vision of that Eternal 'Moment'. Lewis had issues with Blake because of his own orthodoxy. But my vision of him is that Blake's poetry and George MacDonald's spirit had done their work in the end, enabling Lewis to envision the graduation to Eternity of "turk and jew":
"And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too"
Blake has said that "every death is an improvement in the state of the departed."
He must have substantially completed the long drawn out procedure of confessing his sins and experiencing forgiveness during mortal life because he died a very happy man.