Monday, June 27, 2016

The Universal Symbols

First posted by Larry on March 7, 2011, his 85TH birthday.


Yale Center for British Art
Illustrations for Young's Night Thoughts
Perhaps Blake's greatest gift to any of us may be the Faculty of perceiving the realities around us in terms of the Universal Symbols:

For example the character Jane in Jane Eyre may serve as a Christ Symbol (or in Blake's lexicon as Eternity). Rochester represents Everyman; the flossie, to whom he was considering marriage, is the Way of the World, the purely material.

The half cousin who wanted Jane to marry him and go to Africa with him represents Conventional Religion; his sisters are the Blakean Redeemed.

Rochester's wife is the victim of his accumulated moral failings, which led to spiritual blindness.

The happy ending is echoed by the ending of most Detective Stories. The crime is solved, the detective enjoys real life, the harm remains, but it no longer affects him. In the Sacred Story every tear has been wiped away.

In this post I've expressed the reality of the story in terms of the Blakean universal symbols. That's only one of many ways you might find universal meaning is a work of art.

IMO it was Northrup Frye who introduced to the Blake community (in 1947) to an understanding of Blake's use of symbols, images, metaphor; armed with that knowledge understanding of his poetry, his myth, the import of his pictures proceeded apace. But that's appropriate for another post.
Four Zoas, Night IX, PAGE 121, (E 390) 
"Urizen wept in the dark deep anxious his Scaly form
To reassume the human & he wept in the dark deep

Saying O that I had never drank the wine nor eat the bread
Of dark mortality nor cast my view into futurity nor turnd  
My back darkning the present clouding with a cloud               
And building arches high & cities turrets & towers & domes  
Whose smoke destroyd the pleasant gardens & whose running Kennels
Chokd the bright rivers burdning with my Ships the angry deep
Thro Chaos seeking for delight & in spaces remote
Seeking the Eternal which is always present to the wise          
Seeking for pleasure which unsought falls round the infants path
And on the fleeces of mild flocks who neither care nor labour
But I the labourer of ages whose unwearied hands
Are thus deformd with hardness with the sword & with the spear
And with the Chisel & the mallet I whose labours vast            
Order the nations separating family by family
Alone enjoy not   I alone in misery supreme
Ungratified give all my joy unto this Luvah & Vala    
Then Go O dark futurity I will cast thee forth from these
Heavens of my brain nor will I look upon futurity more   
I cast futurity away & turn my back upon that void       
Which I have made for lo futurity is in this moment      
Let Orc consume let Tharmas rage let dark Urthona give
All strength to Los & Enitharmon & let Los self-cursd
Rend down this fabric as a wall ruind & family extinct           
Rage Orc Rage Tharmas Urizen no longer curbs your rage

So Urizen spoke he shook his snows from off his Shoulders & arose"

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