Wednesday, December 20, 2017

THE GRAVE 1

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:2

Henry Fuseli and William Blake were both 'corporeal' friends and spiritual friends: they enjoyed each others company and shared interests, but they also related with each other through the bond of a common spiritual sensitivity. Fuseli recognized in Blake's watercolor illustrations for Blair's The Grave the implications of what he was trying to communicate of everyman's spiritual journey. To enhance the message that Blake incorporated in his illustrations, Fuseli arranged the pictures in the order appropriate to carry Blake's message.

Fuseli:
"By the arrangement here made, the regular progression
of Man, from his first descent into the Vale of
Death, to his last admission into Life eternal, is
exhibited. These Designs, detached from the
Work they embellish, form of themselves a most
interesting Poem."

I. THE DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO THE GRAVE.
II. THE DESCENT OF MAN INTO THE VALE OF DEATH.
III. DEATH'S DOOR
IV. THE STRONG AND WICKED MAN DYING.
V. THE GOOD OLD MAN DYING.
VI. THE SOUL HOVERING OVER THE BODY.
VII. THE SOUL EXPLORING THE RECESSES OF THE GRAVE.
VIII. THE COUNSELLOR, KING, WARRIOR, MOTHER, AND CHILD.
IX. THE SKELETON RE-ANIMATED.
X. THE RE-UNION OF SOUL
XI. A FAMILY MEETING IN HEAVEN.
XII. THE LAST JUDGMENT.

To Blake the Door of Death marked entry into earthly life. Christ and Man alike enter the door of death to gain experience by living in a physical, mortal body. A man takes on an identity on earth suited to the tasks assigned to him. Although the man may experience himself as a body separated from his soul this is a misapprehension. The soul remains a presence which can be accessed whenever the body is prepared to receive it. In the Vale of Death are many mansions which the man may have occasion to explore as he seeks the truth which will remain when error is annihilated. When the trumpet sounds for a man he receives the transcending vision and his body of flesh is exchanged for a spiritual body suited for Eternity. Man is not alone in the Eternal Realm but reunited with the company of the redeemed in the fellowship of love. Error is annihilated and truth reigns when the Last Judgment separates the Eternal from the transient, the Infinite from restraints of space.

Cromek, the publisher, did not follow the order suggested by Fuseli but used a completely different order in the published book:

1 Title Page - The Grave - A Poem 
2 Christ Descending
3 The Meeting of a Family in Heaven
4 The Counselor, King, Warrior, Mother and Child in the Tomb
5 Death of the Strong Wicked Man
6 The Soul Hovering Over the Body reluctantly parting with Life
7 The Death of The Good Old Man
8 The Descent of Man into the Vale of Death
9 The Day of Judgment
10 The Soul Exploring the Recesses of the Grave
11 Death's Door
12 The Reunion of the Soul & the Body

The arrangement by Cromak follows the more common understanding of Death as the end of Life when the evil man is subject to punishment and the good man is rewarded in heaven by being rejoined by his soul from whom he was alienated on earth. 


Page 1
Fuseli's arrangement
Blake's Watercolor
Page 1
Cromak's arrangement
Schiavonetti's Engraving 

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