Monday, March 28, 2016

READING BLAKE

British Museum 
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Unfortunately Blake had little readership in his lifetime. The few who had access to his epic works - the Four Zoas, Milton and Jerusalem - seem to have found them largely unintelligible. But Blake was writing to communicate his thought, not just to prove that he could produce extraordinary documents. He wanted to be read by people who would make themselves available to be influenced by the spiritual and psychological content of his work. It is for us to learn from Blake, if we have developed the consciousness to be receptive to his instruction.

Roger Easson  studied the relationship of Blake to his prospective reader in his essay Blake and His Reader in Jerusalem. Easson's chapter can be read in Blake's Sublime Allegory edited by Stuart Curran & Joseph Anthony Wittreich, Jr.



Easson writes:
"The bard must at once ensure that Jerusalem survives as a viable literary work, which will encourage the reader to labor at the furnace of Los, and ensure that those readers who do not enter in forgiveness and faith will endure throughout a frustrating, though alluring labyrinth. This labyrinthine poem is rooted both in Blake's disappointment with his contemporary audience and in his hope that one day an audience would receive his as he desired, transforming itself by a new awareness of its own infinite nature. This aesthetic creates within Jerusalem a cunning and magnificently ordered rhetorical screen to separate the sheep from the goats, the saved from the damned, the forgiving, faithful readers from the accusing, rational ones. Consequently, Blake's rhetorical apocalypse is more perfectly structured than rational men have acknowledged.
...
The faith Blake vested in the hypothetical audience of the future is cause for amazement. He entered into the Herculean labor of producing his magnificent graphic-literary artifact during those years when his reputation had sunk to obscurity, and when he was depending on patrons for livelihood. More amazing still is the internal strength of conviction with which he pursued such an aesthetic of imposition in the face of nearly universal neglect and commercial failure. Blake was not merely writing poetry of great beauty; he, in fact, sacrificed those vegetable traits we call beauty for another order of beauty altogether - an eternal sublime beauty, capable of restoring the fallen reader to a new and expanded vision. His gift to his fellow men is not majestic words of bold histrionics; it a cataclysm of vision, a most extraordinary education."
Page 326
  
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate , (E 40)
 "These two classes of men are always upon earth, & they should
be enemies; whoever tries [PL 17] to reconcile them seeks to
destroy existence.   
   Religion is an endeavour to reconcile the two.
   Note.  Jesus Christ did not wish to unite but to seperate
them, as in  the Parable of sheep and goats! & he says I came not
to send Peace  but a Sword.
   Messiah or Satan or Tempter was formerly thought to be one of
the  Antediluvians who are our Energies."

Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)

    SHEEP                                          GOATS   

                       To the Public

     After my three years slumber on the banks of the Ocean, I
again display my Giant forms to the Public: My former Giants &
Fairies having reciev'd the highest reward possible: the
[love] and [friendship] of those with whom to
be connected, is to be [blessed]: I cannot doubt that
this more consolidated & extended Work, will be as kindly
recieved
     The Enthusiasm of the following Poem, the Author hopes
[no Reader will think presumptuousness or arroganc[e] when he
is reminded that the Ancients acknowledge their love to their
Deities, to the full as Enthusiastically as I have who
Acknowledge mine for my Saviour and Lord, for they were wholly
absorb'd in their Gods.] I also hope the Reader will
be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord, who is the God [of
Fire] and Lord [of Love] to whom the Ancients
look'd and saw his day afar off, with trembling & amazement.
     The Spirit of Jesus is continual forgiveness of Sin: he who
waits to be righteous before he enters into the Saviours kingdom,
the Divine Body; will never enter there.  I am perhaps the most
sinful of men! I pretend not to holiness! yet I pretend to love,
to see, to converse with daily, as man with man, & the more to
have an interest in the Friend of Sinners.  Therefore
[Dear] Reader, [forgive] what you do not
approve, & [love] me for this energetic exertion of my
talent.

    Reader! [lover] of books! [lover] of
     heaven,
    And of that God from whom [all books are given,]
    Who in mysterious Sinais awful cave
    To Man the wond'rous art of writing gave,
    Again he speaks in thunder and in fire!                
    Thunder of Thought, & flames of fierce desire:
    Even from the depths of Hell his voice I hear,
    Within the unfathomd caverns of my Ear.
    Therefore I print; nor vain my types shall be:
    Heaven, Earth & Hell, henceforth shall live in harmony 

            Of the Measure, in which
              the following Poem is written"

Letters, to Thomas Butts, 1803, (E 782)
"Accept of my thanks for your kind & heartening Letter You
have Faith in the Endeavours of Me your weak brother & fellow
Disciple. how great must be your faith in our Divine Master.  You
are to me a Lesson of Humility while you Exalt me by such
distinguishing commendations.  I know that you see certain merits
in me which by Gods Grace shall be made fully apparent & perfect
in Eternity. in the mean time I must not bury the Talents in the
Earth but do my endeavour to live to the Glory of our Lord &
Saviour & I am also grateful to the kind hand that endeavours to
lift me out of despondency even if it lifts me too high--"

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