Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Copy A, Plate 11
Perhaps political situations are never simple, as Larry and I frequently commiserated there were too many variables.
During Blake's lifetime there were innumerable variables (rebellion, war, slavery, republicanism, liberation, etc.), each of which was influenced by multiple forces. Caution was called for in manipulating a single variable which would have a rippling effect. When Blake wrote Visions of the Daughters of Albion he attempted to affect the treatment of women and the treatment of slaves simultaneously. By allowing the work to be interpreted in multiple ways he avoided suggesting dramatic change in any single variable.
Two problems addressed in Visions of the Daughters of Albion were marriage laws which resulted in oppression of women, and failure of the law to prevent the use of British ships to transport slaves. David Erdman in Prophet Against Empire directed our attention to the subtle ways Blake referenced the slave trade when writing of the sexual triangle among Oothoon, Bromian and Theotormon. Before the lovers Oothoon and Theotormon could be married she was violated by Bromian. Oothoon was rejected by both men but she knew herself to be pure and undefiled. Shift to the situation regarding slavery - Oothoon is the African slave as the pawn being manipulated by outside forces; Bromian in the slave trader who makes it possible for slavery to increase; Theotormon is the Parliament who refuses to act against the power of the economic system sustained by slavery.
The tensions which existed in either of the triangles is expressed in this way by Erdman on page 241 of his book:
"In her effort to prod him across the threshold of indecision - 'I cry O Theotormon for the village dog Barks at the breaking day'- Oothoon insists that the revolutionary dawn is at hand and overdue and the corn is ripe. But the 'citizen of London' does not look up... he fears the new philosophy may carry his thought to a 'remote land' (America) or may bring 'poison from the desert wilds' rather that 'dews and honey and balm.' And he grows silent when Bromian shakes the cavern with rhetorical question, just as the Abolitionists were silenced in 1793 by the clamor of Antijacobinism."
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 46)
"The Daughters of Albion hear her woes. & eccho back her sighs.
Why does my Theotormon sit weeping upon the threshold; And Oothoon hovers by his side, perswading him in vain: I cry arise O Theotormon for the village dog Barks at the breaking day. the nightingale has done lamenting. The lark does rustle in the ripe corn, and the Eagle returns From nightly prey, and lifts his golden beak to the pure east; Shaking the dust from his immortal pinions to awake The sun that sleeps too long. Arise my Theotormon I am pure. Because the night is gone that clos'd me in its deadly black. 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; Plate 3 And none but Bromion can hear my lamentations."