Monday, April 30, 2018


British Museum
Plate 3
At the beginning of Jerusalem, Blake's last long poem, he made a clear statement in prose of his situation, his intention and what he desired from his reader. First he referred to the three years he spent away from London at the village of Felpham on the English Channel about 50 miles south of London. His Giant Forms referred to his Zoas and the other entities which occupied his mind and peopled his poems. Fairies were forces, not in the mind but in the world, which seemed to influence circumstances. On the next line are words in brackets which were inserted by scholars to replace words which were gouged from the engraved plate before it was printed. The conjecture is that Blake experienced a rejection from a supporter which was so painful to him that he removed references to 'love' and 'friendship' from the work he had created. The violence to the engraving would remain as evidence of his reaction to the loss of love and friendship from another, and the anger and failure to forgive which was stirred up in own heart.

Here Blake inserted lines of conventional poetry with rhyme and predictable rhythm. Notable in this section is the reference to Sinai where Moses received the tablets of law. Blake intended to hear that voice which spoke to Moses and record it in the book he wrote. He recognized that it is not men who are in charge of events but Spirits.

Next Blake, by including Greek words which were

British Museum
Plate 4
translated as being a quote from Matthew 5, declared his intention of separating the sheep from the goats as does a shepherd:
Matthew 5 
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

The passage which follows explained Blake's choice of a poetic form. He would exercise the freedom not to be bound by rhyme or meter. His criteria for writing his poetry was carefully choosing the fit letter, word, cadence, or number of syllables. In accordance with his philosophy of Liberty as expression of Spirit he would write poetry unfettered by traditional rules. 

Continuing onto the next plate he made another reference to the New Testament by inserting the Greek words for 'Jesus only'. One location of these words is Mark 9:8,  "And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves."

Chapter 1 proper began with his stated theme: "the passage through Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life." He asserted that the words were his to write, but were dictated to him by the Savior.  


Jerusalem, Plate 3, (E 145)

                       "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
     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

    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

     We who dwell on Earth can do nothing of ourselves, every
thing is conducted by Spirits, no less than Digestion or Sleep.

 <Greek>E*do*O*n *mo*i
*p*a*s*a *e*zo*u*s*i*a *e*n o*u*r*a*n*o k*a*i *e*p*i *g*e*s

[Matthew 5:32-33
[32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall 
separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from 
the goats:
[33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.]

 When this Verse was first dictated to me I consider'd a 
Monotonous Cadence like that used by Milton & Shakspeare & all
writers of English Blank Verse, derived from the modern bondage
of Rhyming; to be a necessary and indispensible part of Verse. 
But I soon found that
in the mouth of a true Orator such monotony was not only awkward,
but as much a bondage as rhyme itself.  I therefore have produced
a variety in every line, both of cadences & number of syllables. 
Every word and every letter is studied and put into its fit
place: the terrific numbers are reserved for the terrific
parts--the mild & gentle, for the mild & gentle parts, and the
prosaic, for inferior parts: all are necessary to each ot her. 
Poetry Fetter'd, Fetters the Human Race! Nations are Destroy'd,
or Flourish, in proportion as Their Poetry Painting and Music,
are Destroy'd or Flourish! The Primeval State of Man, was Wisdom,
Art, and Science.                                               t

<Greek>Mo*no*s *o I*e*so*u*s </Greek>
[Jesus only - example - Mark 9:8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, 
they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.]


            Chap: I

Of the Sleep of Ulro! and of the passage through
Eternal Death! and of the awaking to Eternal Life.

This theme calls me in sleep night after night, & ev'ry morn
Awakes me at sun-rise, then I see the Saviour over me
Spreading his beams of love, & dictating the words of this mild song." 


Wikimedia Commons
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Copy Z, Plate 45
The Little Vagabond
Larry and I have written very little about Blake's Tyger although it is Blake's best known and perhaps most provocative poem. It may also be his most influential thought and message. In Robert Persig's Lila we find an instance of the content of The Tyger not being referenced directly, but by association entering the consciousness of a larger dimension.   

Like Blake, Persig in his book was attempting to provide an opening to a consciousness beyond the habitual frame in which we ordinarily operate. Pirsig's reference to Blake's Tyger in association with perceptions of exterior light in unexpected situations is a portent of receiving the inner transforming light.

If we reflect on the methods by which we receive light we may focus first on the light from distant objects which we receive through our physical eyes. Second might be the enlightenment which we experience in our minds when we break into new insight about a person, object, situation or idea. Third is consciousness of the light itself when it spreads its illumination in some unusual or intense fashion. Pirsig wrote of experiencing the light as it radiated from an object or person or event of peculiar significance. Blake's experience in the Truchsessian Gallery enhanced his ability to see more clearly in the external world because his inner light was intensified. Pirsig used the the internal generation of light by Blake's Tyger as symbolic of transformation taking place in the psyche.    

Lila by Robert Pirsig, Page 339:

"During Phaedrus' time of insanity when he wandered freely outside the limits of cultural reality, this light had been a valued companion, pointing out things to him that he would otherwise have missed, appearing at an event his rational thought had indicated was unimportant, but which he later discovered had been more important than he had known. Often it had occurred at events he could not figure out the importance of, but had left him wondering.

He saw it once on a small kitten. After that for a long time the kitten followed him wherever he went and he wondered if the kitten saw it too.

He had seen it once around a tiger at the zoo. The tiger had suddenly looked at him with what seemed like surprise and had come over to the bars for a closer look. The the illumination began to appear around the tiger's face. That was all. Afterward, that experience associated itself with William Blake's 'Tiger! Tiger! burning bright.'

The eyes had blazed with what seemed to be inner light."

Letters, To Hayley, (E 756)
on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery of pictures, I
was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in my youth, and
which has for exactly twenty years been closed from me as by a
door and by window-shutters."

Milton, Plate 1, (E 95)
  "And did the Countenance Divine,             
     Shine forth upon our clouded hills?"

Milton, Plate 5, (E 98)
"And this is the manner of the Daughters of Albion in their beauty
Every one is threefold in Head & Heart & Reins, & every one
Has three Gates into the Three Heavens of Beulah which shine
Translucent in their Foreheads & their Bosoms & their Loins
Surrounded with fires unapproachable: but whom they please
They take up into their Heavens in  intoxicating  delight" 

Milton, Plate 10, (E 104)
"Every thing in Eternity shines by its own Internal light: but thou
Darkenest every Internal light with the arrows of thy quiver
Bound up in the borns of jealousy to a deadly fading Moon
And Ocalythron binds the Sun into a Jealous Globe
That every thing is fixd Opake without Internal light"  

Jerusalem, Plate 19, (E 164)
"Where once he sat he weary walks in misery and pain:
His Giant beauty and perfection fallen into dust:
Till from within his witherd breast grown narrow with his woes:
The corn is turn'd to thistles & the apples into poison:         
The birds of song to murderous crows, his joys to bitter groans!
The voices of children in his tents, to cries of helpless infants!
And self-exiled from the face of light & shine of morning,
In the dark world a narrow house! he wanders up and down,
Seeking for rest and finding none! and hidden far within,        
His Eon weeping in the cold and desolated Earth.

All his Affections now appear withoutside:   

So Los lamented over Satan, who triumphant divided the Nations"

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 81, (E 357)
"Thy roses that expanded in the face of glowing morn
Page 82 
Hid in a little silken veil scarce breathe & faintly shine
Thy lilies that gave light what time the morning looked forth
Hid in the Vales faintly lament & no one hears their voice"

Songs and Ballads, (E 477)
"Mock on Mock on Voltaire Rousseau
Mock on Mock on! tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind
And the wind blows it back again

And every sand becomes a Gem                          
Reflected in the beams divine
Blown back they blind the mocking Eye 
But still in Israels paths they shine

The Atoms of Democritus
And Newtons Particles of light          
Are sands upon the Red sea shore
Where Israels tents do shine so bright"

Songs and Ballads, From Notebook, (E 480)
"My Designs unchangd remain      
Time may rage but rage in vain
For above Times troubled Fountains
On the Great Atlantic Mountains
In my Golden House on high
There they Shine Eternally"     

Auguries of Innocence, (E 492)
"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born 
Every Morn & every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night
We are led to Believe a Lie 
When we see not Thro the Eye 
Which was Born in a Night to perish in a Night
When the Soul Slept in Beams of Light
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night 
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day"

Songs of Innocence and of Experience, Plate 42, (E 24)
"The Tyger.                         

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.       
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?           
On what wings dare he aspire?     
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain, 
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,       
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!               

When the stars threw down their spears   
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?          
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? 

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:                        
What immortal hand or eye,                     
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"  

Matthew 17
[1] And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
[2] And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
[3] And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
[4] Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
[5] While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
[6] And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
[7] And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
[8] And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Think about the world in terms of three different ways of perceiving space and time. First the sense-based world measured by rulers and clocks. Second the theoretical world of molecules and universes described by formulas and mathematics. Access to the third world is through vision which transcends the limits of space/time crossing the barrier into the infinite and eternal.
Milton, Plate 29 [31], (E 127)
"For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery.

The Sky is an immortal tent built by the Sons of Los
And every Space that a Man views around his dwelling-place:
Standing on his own roof, or in his garden on a mount
Of twenty-five cubits in height, such space is his Universe;
And on its verge the Sun rises & sets. the Clouds bow
To meet the flat Earth & the Sea in such an orderd Space:
The Starry heavens reach no further but here bend and set        
On all sides & the two Poles turn on their valves of gold:
And if he move his dwelling-place, his heavens also move.
Wher'eer he goes & all his neighbourhood bewail his loss:
Such are the Spaces called Earth & such its dimension:
As to that false appearance which appears to the reasoner,       
As of a Globe rolling thro Voidness, it is a delusion of Ulro
The Microscope knows not of this nor the Telescope. they alter
The ratio of the Spectators Organs but leave Objects untouchd
For every Space larger than a red Globule of Mans blood.
Is visionary: and is created by the Hammer of Los                
And every Space smaller than a Globule of Mans blood. opens
Into Eternity of which this vegetable Earth is but a shadow:
The red Globule is the unwearied Sun by Los created
To measure Time and Space to mortal Men. every morning.
Bowlahoola & Allamanda are placed on each side                   
Of that Pulsation & that Globule, terrible their power."
Space/time as we perceive it with our five senses is flat and linear. Blake was aware that science in his day had postulated an alternative space/time in which Earth was a 'Globe rolling thro Voidness.' Time was stretched to include geological time and astronomical time. The movement of heavenly bodies was dictated by laws formulated through scientific studies. This picture contradicted the experience of man which was the flat earth, circumscribed by his orbit of his experience. Blake picked as the 'reasoners' who portrayed this view of the world Newton, Bacon, and Locke

To Blake both the limited view of the world conveyed by the senses, and the Newtonian view represented a 'delusion of Ulro' in consequence of man having lost the 'visionary' perspective. The imagination, Los, is the vehicle through man enters the visionary world. It is a world in which the exterior world is but a shadow of what lies within man's ability to create images.

Blake exercised his ability to create images by looking within his own psyche and making a diagram of his interior world and projecting it onto what he experienced outwardly. Blake's diagram is found on Plate 32 of Milton. The forces which shaped the inner world each had a separate space of their own but overlapped as they were affected by one another and influenced another. For the fields opposite each other there was no overlapping. The active area of interaction was within an egg-shaped area containing Adam and Satan. Adam falls within the circle of Urthona, Satan within the circle of Urizen. Satan's fires functioned inside the egg-shaped area almost entirely within the areas of Tharmas, Urizen and Luvah, not Urthona

British Museum
Plate 32, copy A
Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 189)
"So spoke Albion in gloomy majesty, and deepest night
Of Ulro rolld round his skirts from Dover to Cornwall.

Los answerd. Righteousness & justice I give thee in return
For thy righteousness! but I add mercy also, and bind            
Thee from destroying these little ones: am I to be only
Merciful to thee and cruel to all that thou hatest[?]
Thou wast the Image of God surrounded by the Four Zoa's
Three thou hast slain! I am the Fourth: thou canst not destroy me.
Thou art in Error; trouble me not with thy righteousness.      
I have innocence to defend and ignorance to instruct:
I have no time for seeming; and little arts of compliment,
In morality and virtue: in self-glorying and pride." 

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 126, (E 395)
"Luvah & Vala henceforth you are Servants obey & live
You shall forget your former state return O Love in peace 
Into your place the place of seed not in the brain or heart
If Gods combine against Man Setting their Dominion above
The Human form Divine. Thrown down from their high Station       
In the Eternal heavens of Human Imagination: buried beneath 
In dark Oblivion with incessant pangs ages on ages
In Enmity & war first weakend then in stern repentance
They must renew their brightness & their disorganizd functions
Again reorganize till they resume the image of the human    
Cooperating in the bliss of Man obeying his Will
Servants to the infinite & Eternal of the Human form"


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Myths 4

First Posted in April 2013
                             Persephone in Visions of the Daughters of Albion 
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 1, (E 46)
"Over the waves she went in wing'd exulting swift delight;
And over Theotormons reign, took her impetuous course.
Bromion rent her with his thunders. on his stormy bed
Lay the faint maid, and soon her woes appalld his thunders hoarse

Bromion spoke. behold this harlot here on Bromions bed,
And let the jealous dolphins sport around the lovely maid;
Thy soft American plains are mine, and mine thy north & south:   
Stampt with my signet are the swarthy children of the sun:
They are obedient, they resist not, they obey the scourge:
Their daughters worship terrors and obey the violent:
Plate 2
Now thou maist marry Bromions harlot, and protect the child
Of Bromions rage, that Oothoon shall put forth in nine moons time"
Wikimedia Commons
British Museum
Visions of the Daughters of Albion

Copy O, Plate 3
On page 166 of Blake and Tradition Kathleen Raine states: "The myth of Oothoon in The Visions of the Daughters of Albion makes a third with those of Thel and Lyca; for here, too, Blake told the story of the soul's descent into generation. Oothoon if the noblest of the three: Thel fears to descend; Lyca falls asleep; but Oothoon brings into the cave the memories and values of eternity. Because she possesses this knowledge she knows that physical forms are embodiments of spiritual essences , and a great part of the poem takes the form of an eloquent debate between the materialistic and idealistic views of the nature of life."
In Oothoon's myth Blake looks at more complex implications of the soul's relationship to the body. By plucking the flower Oothoon enters the world of generation or sexual division. She is assaulted by Bromion who is said to be both Reason and the Law. The attack is perhaps implies that she has acknowledged her sexuality and has chosen as her mate Theotormon who represents Desire. The two males both reject Oothoon, now considering her to have been defiled by sexual experience. Oothoon however knows herself to be the Soul which cannot be contaminated by outer events. The males are bound by appearances which prevent them from seeing the situation from a spiritual or eternal perspective. Oothoon knowing her own purity urges that they change their perspective:
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 51)
"And trees. & birds. & beasts. & men. behold their eternal joy.
Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!  

Thus every morning wails Oothoon. but Theotormon sits
Upon the margind ocean conversing with shadows dire.
The Daughters of Albion hear her woes, & eccho back her sighs."
Here's a Blakean twist on the ubiquitous eternal triangle of all the love stories.
Although Blake is making a statement about the descent of the soul into materality he is also addressing the moral situation of the treatment of women. Here we see clearly the moral approach. Blake used Visions of the Daughters of Albion to express his emphatic displeasure at the notion that a raped girl is 'damaged goods' and no longer worthy of the love of her erswhile lover. He considered that to be a high degree of immorality, another expression of the Jealousy that was for Blake the primary sin. To perceive a woman as property, all too prevalent in Blake's day and still quite common in ours, is repugnant to Blake.
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 7, (E 50)
 "The moment of desire! the moment of desire! The virgin
That pines for man; shall awaken her womb to enormous joys
In the secret shadows of her chamber; the youth shut up from     
The lustful joy. shall forget to generate. & create an amorous image
In the shadows of his curtains and in the folds of his silent pillow.
Are not these the places of religion? the rewards of continence?
The self enjoyings of self denial? Why dost thou seek religion?
Is it because acts are not lovely, that thou seekest solitude,   
Where the horrible darkness is impressed with reflections of desire.
Father of jealousy. be thou accursed from the earth!
Why hast thou taught my Theotormon this accursed thing?"
"Are not these the places of religion, the rewards of continence?" - A poke at conventional religion in which women are considered the property of men!
In contrast the metaphysical (or mythological) 'approach' presents an early (1793) version of the myth of the Kore. Oothoon is of course Persephone who likewise plucked a flower and was forced into a relationship not of her own choosing:
"The Golden nymph replied; pluck thou my flower Oothoon the mild." Oothoon, like Persephone was trapped in "Pluto's realm", the material world without escape, but she never joined it. Hurrah!
   Although most of us who are religious types may struggle our whole lives for those precious moments of God consciousness, William Blake had a direct pipeline to the Beyond. Heavenly visions dominated his mind in an overwhelming way. His wife had only one fault to find, "Mr. Blake spends too much time in Heaven."
   Those 'heavenly' moments he could best (or only) describe in the symbolic terms of the ages, a language that has been largely forgotten since the Enlightenment by our materialistic culture, which despises anything other than the 'hard reality' of dollars and cents.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Myths 3

Reposted from April 2013

(Taken from a portion of the Blake Primer.)


(Kathleen Raines' book Blake and Tradition gives a good source for interpretation of The Myth of the Kore (Persephone), as used by Blake.)
(Kore: Greek = Persephone: Roman)

       Here is a simple version of Persephone's story. We are told that Blake became interested in the Eleusinian Mysteries in about 1790.

       I suppose the original and oldest story of Persephone may have been from the pen of Homer.
Demeter (Kore) was the goddess of agriculture and marriage. Her daughter was Persephone (Prosepine). This fair maiden plucked a special flower and had the fortune to be abducted by Pluto to be queen of his Underworld. Demeter appealed to Zeus about this outrage; as a consequence Persephone was granted dual citizenship in the Underworld and the material World with the freedom to move from one to the other twice a year.

       The origin if this myth is the natural arrangement of the yearly sequence of seasons. Persephone spent winter in Hades and the warmer months in the World. The metaphysics points toward the dual nature of man: made in the image of God, but made of clay.

       Psychologically we have the angelic impulse and the devilish one. (They generally alternate more frequently than twice a year.) The literal form is kind of self evident: a girl raped and kidnapped-- all too common in the 21st Century; whether she's ever recovered is problematic.

       (This little lesson in the origin of myths illustrates something that will become more and more obvious if you continue reading Blake: what his words mean superficially is often (or usually) far from his most significant intention.)

       In the early centuries of the Christian era a close relationship existed between the "followers of Jesus and  those of Persephone".  They had much in common-- particularly salvation, which (at least ritually) was achieved in remarkably similar fashions.

Persephone in Blake

 In Blake 'Vala' represents fallen woman;  'Jerusalem' is redeemed woman.

Wikimedia Commons
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Copy Y, Plate 34

 Lyca (The Little Girl Lost), we see Vala in microcosm (as Persephone). Two poems in Songs of Experience tell her story, a lovely miniature statement of the myth included in all the large myths already described here. Blake spent the next 30 years expanding, enlarging, journaling, commenting on, etc. - the basic myth which we've called his 'system', namely the descent of the soul (humankind) into the world (matter) and it's return to Eternity.

The are many ways to interpret the two "Little Girl" poems in Songs of Experience. Following Raine I have focused on the neo-Platonic viewpoint:
    Songs of Experience, Song 34. (E 20)      
    "In futurity I prophesy
           That the earth from sleep
           (Grave the sentence deep)
           Shall arise, and seek
           For her Maker meek;
           And the desert wild               [this mortal world]
           Become a garden mild.
Here in Blake's inimitable poetry we have the biblical New Heaven and New Earth. It is also a promise of the happy outcome of Blake's myth.
    In the southern clime,              [the eternal realm]
    Where the summer's prime
    Never fades away,
    Lovely Lyca lay. Seven summers old
    Lovely Lyca told.
    She had wandered long,
    Hearing wild birds' song.
    'Sweet sleep, come to me,
    Underneath this tree;              [the Elm of Hades]
    Do father, mother, weep?        [like Demeter wept.]
    Where can Lyca sleep?
    'Lost in desert wild
    Is your little child.
    How can Lyca sleep
    If her mother weep?
    'If her heart does ache,
    Then let Lyca wake;
    If my mother sleep,
    Lyca shall not weep.
    'Frowning, frowning night,
    O'er this desert bright
    Let thy moon arise,
    While I close my eyes.'
    Sleeping Lyca lay,
    While the beasts of prey,
    Come from caverns deep,
    Viewed the maid asleep.
    The kingly lion stood,    [lion=Pluto, king of the underworld]
    And the virgin viewed:
    Then he gambolled round
    O'er the hallowed ground.
    Leopards, tigers, play
    Round her as she lay;
    While the lion old
    Bowed his mane of gold,
    And her bosom lick,
    And upon her neck,
    From his eyes of flame,
    Ruby tears there came;        [Why was the lion sorrowful? Did he mourn the descent of the soul?]
    While the lioness       
    Loosed her slender dress,
    And naked they conveyed
    To caves the sleeping maid."

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Myths 2

Reposted from April 2013
Cupid and Psyche
  Blake had read Taylors' translation of Apuleius' Marriage of Cupid and Psyche. (Blake could not have read Bullfinch's version, but that may be easier for us to begin on.)

       In her discussion of Blake's use of Cupid and Psyche Raine refers us to a passage in Night II of The Four Zoas:
Four Zoas, Night II, PAGE 27, (E 317) 
"And I commanded the Great deep to hide her in his hand
Till she became a little weeping Infant a span long
I carried her in my bosom as a man carries a lamb
I loved her I gave her all my soul & my delight
I hid her in soft gardens & in secret bowers of Summer           
Weaving mazes of delight along the sunny Paradise
Inextricable labyrinths, She bore me sons & daughters
And they have taken her away & hid her from my sight"
       This is a "paradise of shadows" as Raine indicated. Blake described here the coming of an eternal soul into generation, which in Blake's myth is always a misfortune. (However in this (long!) poem Blake provided a creative rational for 'generation' (the descent of the soul).
       In this passage Luvah has (more or less) created Vala, and then (for an unknown reason here) found himself shut off from her and she from him.

       Cupid provides a magnificent house for Psyche, and Luvah does the same thing for Vala, just as Solomon had done (your house is traditionally a symbol of your body). Cupid, Luvah, Solomon build houses for Psyche, Vala, and the Shulamite respectively. They made a house for them, just as God makes a house for each of us.

Psyche's House
From Apuleius
    "And when she had refreshed her selfe sufficiently with sleepe, she rose with a more quiet and pacified minde, and fortuned to espy a pleasant wood invironed with great and mighty trees. Shee espied likewise a running river as cleare as crystall : in the midst of the wood well nigh at the fall of the river was a princely Edifice, wrought and builded not by the art or hand of man, but by the mighty power of God : and you would judge at the first entry therin, that it were some pleasant and worthy mansion for the powers of heaven. For the embowings above were of Citron and Ivory, propped and undermined with pillars of gold, the walls covered and seeled with silver, divers sorts of beasts were graven and carved, that seemed to encounter with such as entered in. All things were so curiously and finely wrought, that it seemed either to be the worke of some Demy god, or of God himselfe. The pavement was all of pretious stones, divided and cut one from another, whereon was carved divers kindes of pictures, in such sort that blessed and thrice blessed were they that might goe upon such a pavement : Every part and angle of the house was so well adorned, that by reason of the pretious stones and inestimable treasure there, it glittered and shone in such sort, that the chambers, porches, and doores gave light as it had beene the Sunne."
       Words of Vala:
    Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 128, (E 397) 
    "My Luvah here hath placd me in a Sweet & pleasant Land
    And given me fruits & pleasant waters & warm hills & cool valleys
    Here will I build myself a house & here Ill call on his name
    Here Ill return when I am weary & take my pleasant rest
    So spoke the Sinless Soul and laid her head on the downy fleece
    Of a curld Ram who stretchd himself in sleep beside his mistress
    And soft sleep fell upon her eyelids in the silent noon of day
    Then Luvah passed by & saw the sinless Soul
    And said Let a pleasant house arise to be the dwelling place
    Of this immortal Spirit growing in lower Paradise
    He spoke & pillars were builded & walls as white as ivory
    The grass she slept upon was pavd with pavement as of pearl. Beneath her rose a downy bed & a cieling coverd all"

       The pleasant house has the symbolic meaning of the Beloved's (that's us!) body. In the Song of Solomon we have this duet:
    Solomon: If she is a wall, we will build towers of silver on her. If she is a door, we will enclose her with panels of cedar.
    Shulamite: I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers. Thus I have become in his eyes like one bringing contentment. Song of Solomon 8:9-10

Yale Center for British Art
Plate 2,Copy E
Each of these three ladies (Psyche, Vala, and the Shulamite) mourns the absence of her husband. Each lady's husband acts as a surrogate for God. Descending into mortal life is a downer that stays with us until the mortal ends.

       With a rhapsodic verse from Solomon re his "beloved" in Blake and Tradition (but not Blake and Antiquity) Raine makes for us an extremely significant revelation: 

Song of Solomon 6
[4] Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.

       As you read The Four Zoas it becomes more and more apparent that Tirzah is the type of Vala fallen. Jerusalem represents Vala redeemed.
(The Four Zoas is a notebook; Jerusalem is a magnificent (and very long!) poem.)

Monday, April 09, 2018

Myths 1

Reposted from April 16, 2013. 
The Book of Thel
(Here's a plate from Thel (Plate 4, I believe:)
       This myth is one of Blake's early examples of the descent of the soul:
       Thel, one of the Immortals (in the vales of Har) is attracted to the life below (as we all were). After hearing the encouragement of the Lilly of the valley, the little cloud, the helpless worm, and the clod of clay she ventures down:

Book of Thel, Plate 6, (E 6) 
"The eternal gates terrific porter lifted the northern bar: 
Thel enter'd in & saw the secrets of the land unknown;
She saw the couches of the dead,.....
The Virgin started from her seat, & with a shriek.
Fled back unhinderd till she came into the vales of Har"

Book of Thel
Plate 4, Copy F
       In this early poem Blake asks the question, is life here in the world worth living? (The question is partly answered in The Little Girl.)
       This poem may also be considered a commentary on Innocence and Experience: the vales of Har represent Innocence while the northern bar leads to Experience. Descent from Eden leads to Experience, and when fully experienced, one may return to his (eternal) origin. Thel chose not to go through that journey, so it doesn't express Blake's myth except to act as a preamble.

Cave of the Nymphs

Unquestionably the Bible was Blake's primary source in developing his primary myth of creation, fall, regeneration (or 'rdemption') and return. However he was fully capable of using other sources, and in The Sea of Time and Space he drew primarily upon Homer (and Plato).(Kathleen Raines' book Blake and Tradition gives a good source for interpretation of the Cave of the Nymphs as used by Blake.) A condensation of Raines' great work may be found at Blake and Antiquity, which contains considerable material on the Sea of Time and Space.
       Three things stand out prominently in this wonderful picture:
       On the right is the cave of the nymphs who conduct innocent souls by the northern gate down into mortal life.
       Below the cave spread across the bottom is the Sea of Time and Space.
       On the upper left you see a representation of the Heavenly Realm.
       Homer wrote about the Cave of the Nymphs in the 13th Book of the Odyssey:
    "At the head of this harbour there is a large olive tree, and at no great distance a fine overarching cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There are mixing bowls within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive there. Moreover, there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs weave their robes of sea purple--very curious to see--and at all times there is water within it. It has two entrances, one facing North by which mortals can go down into the cave, while the other comes from the South and is more mysterious; mortals cannot possibly get in by it, it is the way taken by the gods."
       The Arlington Tempera contains virtually all of the items in Homer's description. Blake faithfully followed Homer in furnishing his cave. The Naiads use the mixing bowls and stone jars to prepare provisions for the descending souls. On the looms the nymphs weave bodies for them; the purple indicates these bodies contain blood.
       Blake loved the looms and used them repeatedly in his prophecies; in his larger prophecies he described the "nymphs" as vicious wicked women; in fact there are pages of these wicked women.
(The feminine of course connotes the earthly (under the moon), and the masculine heavenly (under the sun) - As offensive as this may be to many readers, I don't know any help for it. It might be considered the guideline that men used in their subjugation of women. Blake wasn't responsible; he adopted all the ancient symbols, including this one.)
       Blake's picture portrays the two realms, connected by two passages, sometimes called gates or bars or stairs. The picture shows them as stairs. The prominent gate on the right, called the northern bar, is especially rich in symbols that Blake used over and over as he wrote, etched, drew and painted.
       Immediately to the left of the northern gate is the southern gate of 'return' where worthy mortals ascend into the higher realm of immortality.
       In the upper part of the picture the nymphs prepare souls for the descent into the "sea of time and space". The northern gate is filled with a stream, the current moving downward into the sea.
       Blake shows two souls scheduled for mortal life; each possesses a tub or pail which the nymphs prepared for them containing spiritual truth and power for the hazardous journey into the world.
       At the bottom of the cave one of these 'women' lies in the water blissfully asleep; her tub is turned on its side, all the spiritual things spilled and replaced by the water of mortal life.
       The other woman has carefully protected her pail and against the opposition of the nymphs turned decisively back toward the higher realm; following Heraclitus she may be said to be a dry soul. (This scene evokes Jesus' story of the wise and foolish virgins. The dry soul also suggests Thel, who crossed the northern bar, but drew back in horror at the miry clay ahead. The two imaginary humans represent the choices that each of us make every moment: to go the heavenly way or the worldly way, the two ways that that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14.)
       In the symbolic language water denotes matter, the inferior, the worldly. Souls in the higher realm are attracted by the moisture. 'Time and space' is a sea where mortal creatures suffer adventures that may be creative or destructive.
Similar and closely related to dry and moist souls are those awake and those sleeping (this runs like a current throughout the Bible and through Blake as well.)

The Sea of Time and Space

Arlington Tempera
Arlington Court Devon
        The River of Adonis in the cave issues into the Sea of Time and Space (one of the common titles of Blake's tempera). There is (relatively) little to report about the sea; it's just about life, about my life and your life and every brother or sister's life.
       But emerging from the sea we find Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey on the near shore; with his back to the shore he is putting something in the water: in accordance with Leucothea's instructions he is returning her (magic) girdle which she had lent him so he could swim ashore. In the distance Leucothea appears getting her girdle and dissolving "in a spiral of radiant cloud" (Blake and Antiquity page 6).
       Behind Odysseus stands his protector goddess, Athena pointing him to the courts above.
       (The return of Odysseus to his home closely parallels Elijah's ascent on the fiery chariot into Heaven, and of course the Ascension of Our Lord. The thing to remember is that rather than material events these are metaphors. Our metaphors are spacious and temporal; not so in Eternity.)

       The upper left of the picture shows God upon a chariot, driven by the Four Zoas and surrounded by the immortals. God appears to be a right sleepy god; the import is that it's the inner God who goes to sleep when the soul finds the couch of death and awakens to mortal life (Blake and Antiquity page 15). Raine quotes:
"05 My Eternal Man set in Repose
06 The Female from his darkness rose"
The Gates of Paradise, (E 386)

For more detail look at these posts.

       Once you've grasped the whole of this story you may notice how closely it parallels the primary Bible myth of Creation, Fall and eventual Redemption. It's the old, old story, and in the end there's only one story. (Jesus gave us an abbreviated version of it with The Prodigal Son.)

Sunday, April 08, 2018

No Other Gospel

Larry wrote this in 2009 but never posted it. These are Larry's comments on the prose section which begins the Fourth Chapter of Jerusalem: To the Christians.

Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
To the Christians.
"We are told to abstain from fleshly
desires that we may lose no time from the
Work of the Lord. Every moment lost, is a
moment that cannot be redeemed every
pleasure that intermingles with the duty
of our station is a folly unredeemable and
is planted like the seed of a wild flower
among our wheat." (cf Matthew 13:25)

This is quite a departure from the young 'pleasure lover'
who wrote MHH. It seems like Blake had stopped reading
Swedenberg and taken up Wesley. He had very likely been

reading the first chapter of Galatians when he wrote the

"I know of no other Christianity and of no
other Gospel than the liberty both of body
and mind to exercise the Divine Arts of

Blake, a voracious reader and student of
religion, had seen many other
Christianities and Gospels, but now in his
forties, he had his own Visions of these
Divine Realities.

"Imagination the real and eternal World of
which this Vegetable Universe is but a
faint shadow and in which we shall live in
our Eternal or Imaginative Bodies, when
these Vegetable Mortal Bodies are no

Blake carefully differentiated between ''our
Eternal or Imaginative Bodies" and our
"Vegetable Mortal Bodies".

"The Apostles knew of no other Gospel.
What were all their spiritual gifts?
What is the Divine Spirit? is the Holy Ghost
any other than an Intellectual Fountain?"

A really daring redefinition of the Holy Ghost!

"What is the Harvest of the Gospel & its Labours?
What is that Talent which it is a curse to hide?
What are the Treasures of Heaven which we are
to lay up for ourselves, are they any other than
Mental Studies & Performances? What are all the
Gifts. of the Gospel, are they not all Mental Gifts?
Is God a Spirit who must be worshipped in Spirit
& in Truth and are not the Gifts of the Spirit
Everything to Man?

you who shall pretend to despise Art &amp; Science!
I call upon you in the Name of
Jesus! What is the Life of Man but Art &
Science? is it Meat & Drink? is not the
Body more than Raiment? What is Mortality
but the things relating to the Body, which
Dies? What is Immortality but the things
relating to the Spirit, which Lives
Eternally! What is the joy of Heaven but
Improvement in the things of the Spirit?
What are the Pains of Hell but Ignorance,
Bodily Lust, Idleness & devastation of the
things of the Spirit[?]

Answer this to yourselves, & expel from
among you those who pretend to despise the
labours of Art & Science, which alone are
the labours of the Gospel: Is not this
plain &amp; manifest to the thought? Can you
think at all & not pronounce heartily!
That to Labour in Knowledge. is to Build
up Jerusalem: and to Despise Knowledge, is
to Despise Jerusalem &amp; her Builders."

Here Blake slams the 'know nothings', the
proudly ignorant of whom we have a fair
number in the 21st century.

" And remember: He who despises mocks a
Mental Gift in another; calling it pride &amp;
selfishness &amp; sin; mocks Jesus the giver
of every Mental Gift, which always appear
to the ignorance-loving Hypocrite, as
Sins. but that which is a Sin in the sight
of cruel Man, is not so in the sight of
our kind God.

"Let every Christian as much as in him
lies engage himself openly &amp; publicly
before all the World in some Mental
pursuit for the Building up of Jerusalem "
Plate 100 

Urizen, Los and Enitharmon building Jerusalem