Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Illustration to Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso
Night Startled by the Lark
Blake was fascinated by the writings of John Milton. Since he had begun reading Paradise Lost as a child, he has sought to understand Milton's theology and reconcile it with his own. Milton's God, his Messiah and his Satan eventually became unacceptable to Blake. He could not reconcile the God whose ways Milton tried to justify, with Jesus' benevolent God of forgiveness with whom he interacted. So Blake wrote his poem Milton about forgiveness, our need to forgive and be forgiven. Blake knew that he needed to forgive Milton and himself and God before he could be an instrument of forgiveness and healing in a confused and troubled world. It is that old conundrum of being a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

As Blake saw it, the Immortals who lived in Eternity took the initiative of reaching down to him and entering the world of mortality. They sent a messenger in the form of a mighty angel, but on earth the appearance was that of a Lark:

Milton, Plate 31 [34], (E 130)
"The Lark sitting upon his earthy bed: just as the morn
Appears; listens silent; then springing from the waving Corn-field! loud
He leads the Choir of Day! trill, trill, trill, trill,
Mounting upon the wings of light into the Great Expanse:
Reecchoing against the lovely blue & shining heavenly Shell:
His little throat labours with inspiration; every feather
On throat & breast & wings vibrates with the effluence Divine    
All Nature listens silent to him & the awful Sun
Stands still upon the Mountain looking on this little Bird" 
The arrival of Ololon in Blake's cottage garden at Felpham was announced by the voice of the lark. She appeared not in time and space but in a flash of illumination like lightening. Blake was describing a vision in which Ololon assumed the appearance of a prepubescent child. She was innocent - unmarred by the demands or wounds which the world inflicts. She would become a vehicle for reconciliation.

Milton 36 [40], (E 136)
"Thus are the Messengers dispatchd till they reach the Earth again
In the East Gate of Golgonooza, & the Twenty-eighth bright
Lark met the Female Ololon descending into my Garden            
Thus it appears to Mortal eyes & those of the Ulro Heavens
But not thus to Immortals, the Lark is a mighty, Angel.

For Ololon step'd into the Polypus within the Mundane Shell
They could not step into Vegetable Worlds without becoming
The enemies of Humanity except in a Female Form          
And as One Female, Ololon and all its mighty Hosts
Appear'd: a Virgin of twelve years nor time nor space was
To the perception of the Virgin Ololon but as the
Flash of lightning but more  quick the Virgin in my Garden
Before my Cottage stood for the Satanic Space is delusion        

For when Los joind with me he took me in his firy whirlwind
My Vegetated portion was hurried from Lambeths shades
He set me down in Felphams Vale & prepard a beautiful
Cottage for me that in three years I might write all these Visions
To display Natures cruel holiness: the deceits of Natural Religion" 

No comments: