Life in this world is referred to by Blake as Eternal Death. Man enters it at birth and leaves it at the Last Judgment when he Annihilates his Selfhood. From the perspective of the natural man, Eternal Death is the furnace of affliction where all that can be annihilated is annihilated. From the perspective of the Redeemed Man, Eternal Death is the opportunity to pass through states which lead to Eternal Life. The lessons of love and forgiveness are learned through encountering the stages through which one passes.
Fuseli put this plate second in his order of arranging the pages of The Grave to show what man may expect to experience as he pursues his journey through life. As a man or woman travels with his or her own endowments, he/she moves into situations which elicit responses. The individual gains self-knowledge by interacting with various classes of humanity in multiple circumstances. From the images in the illustration we can focus on states we have already passed through and ones which may lie in the future as our lives unfold.
"The pious daughter weeping and conducting her sire onward; age, creeping carefully on hands and knees; an elder, without friend or kindred; a miser; a bachelor, blindly proceeding, no one knows where, ready to drop into the dark abyss; frantic youth rashly devoted to vice and passion, rushing past the diseased and old, who totters on crutches; the wan declining virgin; the miserable and distracted widow; the hale country youth; and the mother and her numerous progeny, already arrived in this valley, are among the groups which speak irresistibly to the feelings."
|University of Adelaide|
The Grave - Page 2
Milton, Plate 4, (E 98) "Every Mans Wisdom is peculiar to his own Individuality O Satan my youngest born, art thou not Prince of the Starry Hosts And of the Wheels of Heaven, to turn the Mills day & night? Art thou not Newtons Pantocrator weaving the Woof of Locke To Mortals thy Mills seem every thing & the Harrow of Shaddai A scheme of Human conduct invisible & incomprehensible Get to thy Labours at the Mills & leave me to my wrath, Satan was going to reply, but Los roll'd his loud thunders. Anger me not! thou canst not drive the Harrow in pitys paths. Thy Work is Eternal Death, with Mills & Ovens & Cauldrons. Trouble me no more. thou canst not have Eternal Life So Los spoke! Satan trembling obeyd weeping along the way. Mark well my words, they are of your eternal Salvation" Milton, Plate 14 , (E 108) "And Milton said, I go to Eternal Death! The Nations still Follow after the detestable Gods of Priam; in pomp Of warlike selfhood, contradicting and blaspheming. When will the Resurrection come; to deliver the sleeping body From corruptibility: O when Lord Jesus wilt thou come? Tarry no longer; for my soul lies at the gates of death. I will arise and look forth for the morning of the grave. I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks! I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death, Lest the Last Judgment come & find me unannihilate And I be siez'd & giv'n into the hands of my own Selfhood" Milton, Plate 24 , (E 120) "Arise O Sons give all your strength against Eternal Death Lest we are vegetated, for Cathedrons Looms weave only Death A Web of Death: & were it not for Bowlahoola & Allamanda No Human Form but only a Fibrous Vegetation A Polypus of soft affections without Thought or Vision" Milton, Plate 26  (E 123) "For the various Classes of Men are all markd out determinate In Bowlahoola; & as the Spectres choose their affinities So they are born on Earth, & every Class is determinate But not by Natural but by Spiritual power alone, Because The Natural power continually seeks & tends to Destruction Ending in Death: which would of itself be Eternal Death And all are Class'd by Spiritual, & not by Natural power. Milton, Plate 32 , (E 135) "States Change: but Individual Identities never change nor cease: You cannot go to Eternal Death in that which can never Die." Jerusalem, Plate 31, , (E 177) "And the Divine voice came from the Furnaces, as multitudes without Number! the voices of the innumerable multitudes of Eternity. And the appearance of a Man was seen in the Furnaces; Saving those who have sinned from the punishment of the Law, (In pity of the punisher whose state is eternal death,) And keeping them from Sin by the mild counsels of his love. Albion goes to Eternal Death: In Me all Eternity. Must pass thro' condemnation, and awake beyond the Grave!" Jerusalem, Plate 48, (E 196) "These were his last words, and the merciful Saviour in his arms Reciev'd him, in the arms of tender mercy and repos'd The pale limbs of his Eternal Individuality Upon the Rock of Ages. Then, surrounded with a Cloud: In silence the Divine Lord builded with immortal labour, Of gold & jewels a sublime Ornament, a Couch of repose, With Sixteen pillars: canopied with emblems & written verse. Spiritual Verse, order'd & measur'd, from whence, time shall reveal. The Five books of the Decologue, the books of Joshua & Judges, Samuel, a double book & Kings, a double book, the Psalms & Prophets The Four-fold Gospel, and the Revelations everlasting Eternity groan'd. & was troubled, at the image of Eternal Death!" Jerusalem, Plate 63, (E 215) "Without Forgiveness of Sin Love is Itself Eternal Death" Jerusalem, Plate 96, (E 256) "Jesus said. Wouldest thou love one who never died For thee or ever die for one who had not died for thee And if God dieth not for Man & giveth not himself Eternally for Man Man could not exist. for Man is Love: As God is Love: every kindness to another is a little Death In the Divine Image nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood So saying. the Cloud overshadowing divided them asunder Albion stood in terror: not for himself but for his Friend Divine, & Self was lost in the contemplation of faith And wonder at the Divine Mercy & at Los's sublime honour Do I sleep amidst danger to Friends! O my Cities & Counties Do you sleep! rouze up! rouze up. Eternal Death is abroad So Albion spoke & threw himself into the Furnaces of affliction All was a Vision, all a Dream: the Furnaces became Fountains of Living Waters Howing from the Humanity Divine And all the Cities of Albion rose from their Slumbers, and All The Sons & Daughters of Albion on soft clouds Waking from Sleep"
BOOK - 2 Christ Descending - Eternal King whose potent arm sustains the keys of Hell and Death