Sunday, September 30, 2018


Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye"
British Museum
Large Colour Prints
Phrase in context: 
Everlasting Gospel, (E 520)
"When the Soul fell into Sleep
And Archangels round it weep
Shooting out against the Light
Fibres of a deadly night        
Reasoning upon its own Dark Fiction
In Doubt which is Self Contradiction
Humility is only Doubt
And does the Sun & Moon blot out
Rooting over with thorns & stems     
The buried Soul & all its Gems
This Lifes dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with not thro the Eye   
That was born in a night to perish in a night
When the Soul slept in the beams of Light."

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 47) 
"They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle," 
British Museum
Small Book of Designs
From Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 4
Phrase in context: 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 47) 
"They told me that the night & day were all that I could see;     
They told me that I had five senses to inclose me up.
And they inclos'd my infinite brain into a narrow circle,
And sunk my heart into the Abyss, a red round globe hot burning
Till all from life I was obliterated and erased.
Instead of morn arises a bright shadow, like an eye              
In the eastern cloud: instead of night a sickly charnel house;
That Theotormon hears me not! to him the night and morn
Are both alike: a night of sighs, a morning of fresh tears;"

Friday, September 28, 2018


Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans           
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create"
Yale Center for British Art
Plate 54
Phrase in context: 
Jerusalem, Plate 10, (E 153)
"Therefore Los stands in London building Golgonooza
Compelling his Spectre to labours mighty; trembling in fear
The Spectre weeps, but Los unmovd by tears or threats remains

I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Mans           
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create

So Los, in fury & strength: in indignation & burning wrath
Shuddring the Spectre howls. his howlings terrify the night
He stamps around the Anvil, beating blows of stern despair
He curses Heaven & Earth, Day & Night & Sun & Moon               
He curses Forest Spring & River, Desart & sandy Waste
Cities & Nations, Families & Peoples, Tongues & Laws
Driven to desperation by Los's terrors & threatning fears

Los cries, Obey my voice & never deviate from my will
And I will be merciful to thee: be thou invisible to all         
To whom I make thee invisible, but chief to my own Children
O Spectre of Urthona: Reason not against their dear approach
Nor them obstruct with thy temptations of doubt & despair
O Shame O strong & mighty Shame I break thy brazen fetters
If thou refuse, thy present torments will seem southern breezes  
To what thou shalt endure if thou obey not my great will."

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Song and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 489) 
"The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead
British Museum
Ink and Watercolor Drawing 
Whore of Babylon 
Phrase in context:  
Song and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 489) 
The Grey Monk
"But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows tear
Alone can free the World from fear

For a Tear is an Intellectual Thing       
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King 
And the bitter groan of the Martyrs woe    
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed        
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead

Wednesday, September 26, 2018



Songs and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 476) 
"Throughout all Eternity         
I forgive you you forgive me
                   As our dear Redeemer said                    
This the Wine & this the Bread"

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
Phrase in context:
Songs and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 476)
My Spectre 
"Till I turn from Female Love    
And root up the Infernal Grove  
I shall never worthy be         
To Step into Eternity

And to end thy cruel mocks        
Annihilate thee on the rocks
And another form create
To be subservient to my Fate

Let us agree to give up Love
And root up the infernal grove                                 
Then shall we return & see
The worlds of happy Eternity

& Throughout all Eternity         
I forgive you you forgive me
As our dear Redeemer said                    
This the Wine & this the Bread"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Auguries of Innocence, (E 493)
"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"
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts
Phrase in context: 
Auguries of Innocence, (E 493)
"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"

Monday, September 24, 2018


Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 7, (E 35)
 "How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"
Wikimedia Commons 
Illustration to Poems of Thomas Gray
Ode to Spring
The phrase in context:
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 6 & 7, (E 35)
 "A Memorable Fancy.                        

   As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the 
enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and
insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs: thinking that as
the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs
of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any
description of buildings or garments.
   When I came home; on the abyss of the five senses, where a
flat  sided steep frowns over the present world. I saw a mighty
Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock,
with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now
percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.   

   How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
   Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 8, (E 50)
"Arise you little glancing wings, and sing your infant joy!
Arise and drink your bliss, for every thing that lives is holy!"  
Wikipedia Commons  
Illustrations to Blair's The Grave
The phrase in context: 
Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 7 & 8, (E 50)
"Oothoon shall view his dear delight, nor e'er with jealous cloud
Come in the heaven of generous love; nor selfish blightings bring.

Does the sun walk in glorious raiment. on the secret floor  
Where the cold miser spreads his gold? or does the bright cloud drop
On his stone threshold? does his eye behold the beam that brings
Expansion to the eye of pity? or will he bind himself
Beside the ox to thy hard furrow?  does not that mild beam blot
The bat, the owl, the glowing tyger, and the king of night.      
The sea fowl takes the wintry blast. for a cov'ring to her limbs:
And the wild snake, the pestilence to adorn him with gems & gold.
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!"
Four Zoas, Night II, Page 34, (323)
"At the first Sound the Golden sun arises from the Deep
And shakes his awful hair
The Eccho wakes the moon to unbind her silver locks              
The golden sun bears on my song
And nine bright spheres of harmony rise round the fiery King

The joy of woman is the Death of her most best beloved
Who dies for Love of her
In torments of fierce jealousy & pangs of adoration.             
The Lovers night bears on my song
And the nine Spheres rejoice beneath my powerful controll

They sing unceasing to the notes of my immortal hand
The solemn silent moon
Reverberates the living harmony upon my limbs                   
The birds & beasts rejoice & play
And every one seeks for his mate to prove his inmost joy

Furious & terrible they sport & rend the nether deeps
The deep lifts up his rugged head
And lost in infinite humming wings vanishes with a cry         
The fading cry is ever dying
The living voice is ever living in its inmost joy

Arise you little glancing wings & sing your infant joy
Arise & drink your bliss
For every thing that lives is holy for the source of life        
Descends to be a weeping babe
For the Earthworm renews the moisture of the sandy plain

Now my left hand I stretch to earth beneath
And strike the terrible string
I wake sweet joy in dens of sorrow & I plant a smile             
In forests of affliction
And wake the bubbling springs of life in regions of dark death"

Saturday, September 22, 2018



Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 7, (E 35) 
"Eternity is in love with the productions of time."
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 

Friday, September 21, 2018


Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 14 (E 39) 
 "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would
appear  to man as it is: infinite.
   For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro'
narrow chinks of his cavern." 
Wikipedia Commons
Large Book of Designs 
Albion Rose

Thursday, September 20, 2018


There are various short passages in Blake (as there are in the Bible, in Shakespeare, in Dickens and in other favorite pieces of literature) which lodge in our memories and are recalled at appropriated times to lead us, to strengthen us or to reinforce our resolve. I've chosen some of these statement and added an image to each to further reinforce their power to be a part of the intuitive resources which influence our living.

 Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 231)
"I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wind it into a ball:
It will lead you in at Heavens gate,
Built in Jerusalems wall." 
British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Monday, September 17, 2018


British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

It is impossible to avoid adversity. In every life rain falls, pain is experienced, struggles are encountered, disappointments threaten to overwhelm. If something can't be avoided, it must be assimilated and integrated.

The fabric of life is woven from multiple threads which come from diverse sources. It is not ours to select the threads which form the warp and woof providing the texture of the fabric. The woof is the basic ingredients which are given as the individual's inherited circumstances. The warp is the path that the individual travels as he moves along through life. From these threads we weave those outward appearances from which our self-perception is formed. We present this to the world as our persona but it is only a covering for the essential being which is the Eternal Soul. 
Letters, To William Hayley, October 7. 1803 (E 736)
"Yet I laugh & sing for if on Earth neglected I am in
heaven a Prince among Princes & even on Earth beloved by the Good
as a Good Man   this I should be perfectly contented with but at
certain periods a blaze of reputation arises round me in which I
am considerd as one distinguishd by some mental perfection but
the flame 
soon dies again & I am left stupified & astonishd   O that I
could live as others do in a regular succession of Employment
this wish I fear is not to be accomplishd to me--Forgive this
Dirge-like lamentation over a dead horse & now I have lamented
over the dead horse let me laugh & be merry with my friends till
Christmas for as Man liveth not by bread alone I shall live altho
I should want bread--nothing is necessary to me but to do my Duty
& to rejoice in the exceeding joy that is always poured out on my
Spirit. to pray that my friends & you above the rest may be made
partakers of the joy that the world cannot conceive that you may
still be replenishd with the same & be as you always have been a
glorious & triumphant Dweller in immortality.  Please to pay for
me my best thanks to Miss Poole tell her that I wish her a
continued Excess of Happiness--some say that Happiness is not
Good for Mortals & they ought to be answerd that Sorrow is not
fit for Immortals & is utterly useless to any one a blight never
does good to a tree & if a blight kill not a tree but it still
bear fruit let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the

Auguries of Innocence, (E 491)
"It is right it should be so 
Man was made for Joy & Woe
And when this we rightly know
Thro the World we safely go
Joy & Woe are woven fine
A Clothing for the soul divine 
Under every grief & pine
Runs a joy with silken twine
The Babe is more than swadling Bands
Throughout all these Human Lands
Tools were made & Born were hands 
Every Farmer Understands
Every Tear from Every Eye
Becomes a Babe in Eternity
This is caught by Females bright
And returnd to its own delight"

Friday, September 14, 2018


Library of Congress
Plate 81

 If we find ourselves getting bogged down in details reading Blake's complex poetry it is helpful to find a passage which presents a larger picture from which we visualize an overall concept of Blake's intention. In Discussions of William Blake, Edited by John E Grant, the chapter Intellectual Symbolism in Blake's later Prophetic Writings, by Karl Kiralis, presents such an outline:

"The meaning of some of the symbols, Los and Albion for example, is obvious with only a cursory reading. Los (cf Sol) is the poet, the creative man, and . Albion is both the universal and individual man, the most extraordinary average man of English literature. The sons of Albion represent civilization and all its cruelties; the daughters, its female principles. 

These definitions and the ones that follow might mean to the uninitiated reader of Jerusalem if he knew its basic 'plot,' which is revealed through the interactions of the symbolic characters. Very simply, man (or Albion) is dead to eternity because he has accepted certain delusions as reality. Two of his basic false beliefs are in moral virtue or a strict moral code (Rahab), and in reason alone (the spectre) as the guide to his life. The overall delusion is Vala, who represents earthly standards of truth and beauty as opposed to the eternal ones of Jerusalem. Vala constantly struggles to preserve her illusion of reality to keep Jerusalem subjugated. It is the self-imposed and difficult task of the poet (Los) to help man to eternity by ridding him of delusion throughout the course of mankind's history, to free him from the errors present in Judaism, deism, and even Christianity. Man gradually becomes aware of his various misconceptions by recognizing Vala-Rahab for what she is. Then once he has learned the lessons of liberty and forgiveness (Jerusalem), and of the primal innocence and beauty of the body and love (Erin), he becomes balanced fourfold (with reason in its proper place) and lives in eternity." (Page 104)
"The female will also acts through her component parts, the twelve daughters of Albion, especially Tirzah and Gwendolen." (Page 106) 

Plate 81 of Jerusalem focuses attention on the type of deception and delusion which Kiralis associated with Vala in his description.

Jerusalem, Plate 81, (E 238)  
[Gwendolen speaks]
"I have mockd those who refused cruelty & I have admired 
The cruel Warrior. I have refused to give love to Merlin the piteous.
He brings to me the Images of his Love & I reject in chastity
And turn them out into the streets for Harlots to be food
To the stern Warrior. I am become perfect in beauty over my Warrior  
For Men are caught by Love: Woman is caught by Pride
That Love may only be obtaind in the passages of Death.
[Reversed writing] 
In Heaven the only Art of Living 
Is Forgetting & Forgiving 
Especially to the Female 
But if you on Earth Forgive
You shall not find where to Live 
Let us look! let us examine! is the Cruel become an Infant
Or is he still a cruel Warrior? look Sisters, look! O piteous
I have destroyd Wandring Reuben who strove to bind my Will     
I have stripd off Josephs beautiful integument for my Beloved,
The Cruel-one of Albion: to clothe him in gems of my Zone
I have Named him Jehovah of Hosts. Humanity is become
A weeping Infant in ruind lovely Jerusalems folding Cloud: 
In Heaven Love begets Love! but Fear is the Parent of Earthly Love!    
And he who will not bend to Love must be subdud by Fear,"
Jerusalem, Plate 82, (E 239)
"The Twelve Daughters of Albion attentive listen in secret shades 
On Cambridge and Oxford beaming soft uniting with Rahabs cloud
While Gwendolen spoke to Cambel turning soft the spinning reel:
Or throwing the wingd shuttle; or drawing the cords with softest songs
The golden cords of the Looms animate beneath their touches soft,
Along the Island white, among the Druid Temples, while Gwendolen 
Spoke to the Daughters of Albion standing on Skiddaws top.

So saying she took a Falshood & hid it in her left hand:
To entice her Sisters away to Babylon on Euphrates.
And thus she closed her left hand and utterd her Falshood:
Forgetting that Falshood is prophetic, she hid her hand behind her,   
Upon her back behind her loins & thus utterd her Deceit."
 From The Illuminated Blake, David V Erdman, Page 60.
"The point of course is the falsehood we come to expect from worldly wisdom, is only the truth turned inside out. It consists of the second half of Gwendolen's quatrain in mirror writing, 'But if you on Earth Forgive, You shall not find where to Live.' The true message? If you want to live in heaven, then start 'Forgetting & Forgiving,' which 'In Heaven [is] the only Art of Living' - the first half of the quatrain."

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Blake's Watercolours for the Poems of Thomas Gray  Ode for Music
"'Twas Milton Struck the deep-ton'd shell,
And, as the choral warblings round him swell,
Meek Newton self bends from his state sublime, 
And nods his hoary head, and listens to the rhyme."
Thomas Gray

In Northrop Frye on Milton and Blake, edited by Angela Esterhammer, we read:

"Before surveying Frey's views on the two poets separately, it is worth stressing the links between Milton and Blake in his work - even if each of the pieces of this volume is concerned with one writer or the other. Both are for Frye poet-prophets, the most important poet-prophets in the English tradition. Both are revolutionaries who lived in revolutionary times, and embraced the cause of political liberty because they saw it as inseparable from spiritual and religious liberty. Both are also revolutionaries of the imagination although Blake is more blatant in presenting the reader with idiosyncratic mythology, while Milton's departures from Christian orthodoxy appear more subtle and often need explication for a modern reader." (Page xix)

In a few words Frye has stated the bedrock on which Blake and Milton built the structure of which their poetry and thought were the expression. Our two poets ware analogues of the bards who, before there was written language, assembled the culture of a people into songs which narrated, unified and shared the experience which bound man to man and man to the divine.

Milton and Blake by writing from inspiration tied themselves to pre-literate times when the bard enjoyed a vital function in the society. The traditional bard's song did more than entertain his audience. It came from archetypal sources which expressed the fears, aspirations and potentialities of the people to whom (and for whom) he sang.    

Memory, to a pre-literate

“ not so much a thing as an act, a gestalt uniting bard and audience in a shared consciousness. This phenomenon has little in common with that desiccated thing we literates call “memory.” In the world before writing, memory is the social act of remembering. It is commemoration”

(Hobart and Schiffman, 1998:15). 

Milton, Plate 30 [33], (E 129) 
"Beulah is evermore Created around Eternity; appearing
To the Inhabitants of Eden, around them on all sides.
But Beulah to its Inhabitants appears within each district       
As the beloved infant in his mothers bosom round incircled
With arms of love & pity & sweet compassion. But to
The Sons of Eden the moony habitations of Beulah,
Are from Great Eternity a mild & pleasant Rest.

And it is thus Created. Lo the Eternal Great Humanity            
To whom be Glory & Dominion Evermore Amen
Walks among all his awful Family seen in every face
As the breath of the Almighty. such are the words of man to man
In the great Wars of Eternity, in fury of Poetic Inspiration,
To build the Universe stupendous: Mental forms Creating          

But the Emanations trembled exceedingly, nor could they
Live, because the life of Man was too exceeding unbounded
His joy became terrible to them they trembled & wept
Crying with one voice. Give us a habitation & a place
In which we may be hidden under the shadow of wings"
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 537) 
"There are always these two
classes of learned sages, the poetical and the philosophical.
The painter has put them side by side, as if the youthful clerk
had put himself under the tuition of the mature poet.  Let
the Philosopher always be the servant and scholar of inspiration
and all will be happy." 

Friday, September 07, 2018


                       New York Public Library
Plate 29
                           New York Public Library
               Plate 33

Companion full page illustrations of brothers William and Robert Blake appear in Blake’s poem Milton. Both images show men in attitudes of receptivity, leaning backward, arms spread, fingers extended, palms upward. The heads are thrown backward, the gazes are upward. Most notable are the shooting stars descending toward the feet as they step forward.
Blazes of light penetrate the darkness and follow the stars toward the extended feet of the figures. Behind the figures are stone steps which may be joining two worlds. William's steps are three, behind Robert are four steps. The men face in opposite directions.

When William Blake created these images, he was alive and active in the world of time and space; his younger brother Robert had died at the age of nineteen but continued his life in Eternity. Robert was always present to William in tangible ways. In Robert’s notebook William sketched drawings and composed poems. He followed Robert’s directions for making illuminated books.

Blake created his illuminated books with the intention that the reader would consolidate all of the clues which he incorporated to give a cohesive image transcending the individual pixels of data of which they were comprised. We gather Blake’s offerings, season them in our minds, extend the range of our inquiry beyond Blake’s acquaintance, and wait for the visionary experience to be given.

­From Poetic Form in Blake’s Milton, by Susan Fox: Page 223
“The parallelism of the two books of Milton is upheld by several key pairs of illustrations divided between the books. The most obvious pair are the mirrored designs ‘William’ and ‘Robert’...In the first, William staggers backward toward three steps representing the threefold sexual existence of Beulaic inspiration; the star which is Milton’s falling form enters his left foot. Robert (Blake’s dead brother, with whom he claimed to communicate and who probably represents the poet’s eternal part), in the same posture, falls backward toward four steps (Edenic reality), a smaller star entering his right foot. The congruence of the two designs suggests the unification of time and eternity in the instant of Milton‘s descent, which in turn supports the simultaneity of the events in the poem’s text.” (Page 223)

Letters, To Butts, (E 720)
“Wife desires me to Copy out & send you with her kind love &
Respect they were Composed above a twelvemonth ago while
Walking from Felpham to Lavant to meet my

     With happiness stretchd across the hills
     In a cloud that dewy sweetness distills
     With a blue sky spread over with wings
     And a mild sun that mounts & sings
     With trees & fields full of Fairy elves
     And little devils who fight for themselves
     Remembring the Verses that Hayley sung

     When my heart knockd against the root of my tongue
     With Angels planted in Hawthorn bowers
     And God himself in the passing hours
     With Silver Angels across my way
     And Golden Demons that none can stay
     With my Father hovering upon the wind
     And my Brother Robert just behind
     And my Brother John the evil one
     In a black cloud making his mone
     Tho dead they appear upon my path
     Notwithstanding my terrible wrath
     They beg they intreat they drop their tears
     Filld full of hopes filld full of fears
     With a thousand Angels upon the Wind
     Pouring disconsolate from behind
     To drive them off & before my way
     A frowning Thistle implores my stay
     What to others a trifle appears
     Fills me full of smiles or tears
     For double the vision my Eyes do see
     And a double vision is always with me
     With my inward Eye 'tis an old Man grey
     With my outward a Thistle across my way
     "If thou goest back the thistle said
     Thou art to endless woe betrayd
     For here does Theotormon lower
     And here is Enitharmons bower
     And Los the terrible thus hath sworn
     Because thou backward dost return
     Poverty Envy old age & fear
     Shall bring thy Wife upon a bier
     And Butts shall give what Fuseli gave
     A dark black Rock & a gloomy Cave."

     I struck the Thistle with my foot
     And broke him up from his delving root
     "Must the duties of life each other cross"
     "Must every joy be dung & dross"
     "Must my dear Butts feel cold neglect"
     "Because I give Hayley his due respect'
     "Must Flaxman look upon me as wild"
     "And all my friends be with doubts beguild'
     "Must my Wife live in my Sisters bane"
     "Or my sister survive on my Loves pain'
     "The curses of Los the terrible shade"
     "And his dismal terrors make me afraid"

     So I spoke & struck in my wrath
     The old man weltering upon my path
     Then Los appeard in all his power
     In the Sun he appeard descending before
     My face in fierce flames in my double sight
     Twas outward a Sun: inward Los in his might

     "My hands are labourd day & night"
     "And Ease comes never in my sight"
     "My Wife has no indulgence given"
     "Except what comes to her from heaven"
     "We eat little we drink less"
     "This Earth breeds not our happiness"
     "Another Sun feeds our lifes streams"
     "We are not warmed with thy beams"
     "Thou measurest not the Time to me"
     "Nor yet the Space that I do see"
     "My Mind is not with thy light arrayd"
     "Thy terrors shall not make me afraid"

     When I had my Defiance given
     The Sun stood trembling in heaven
     The Moon that glowd remote below
     Became leprous & white as snow
     And every Soul of men on the Earth
     Felt affliction & sorrow & sickness & dearth
     Los flamd in my path & the Sun was hot
     With the bows of my Mind & the Arrows of Thought
     My bowstring fierce with Ardour breathes
     My arrows glow in their golden sheaves
     My brothers & father march before
     The heavens drop with human gore

     Now I a fourfold vision see
     And a fourfold vision is given to me
     Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
     And three fold in soft Beulahs night
     And twofold Always.  May God us keep
     From Single vision & Newtons sleep”