Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Myth in Blake 9

Blake never forgot the involvement of the Christian Church in 2000 years of bloodshed, but here, under the influence of grace, he has a more understanding view of it than he has expressed elsewhere (See Chapter Seven).

In the last Night Blake let all of his feelings out in a magnificent vision of apocalypse that bears comparison with the one John wrote:

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 117, (E 386)
"Los his vegetable hands 
Outstretched; his right hand branching out in fibrous strength 
Seized the Sun; His left hand, like dark roots, cover'd the Moon, 
And tore them down, cracking the heavens across from immense to immense. 
Then fell the fires of Eternity with loud & shrill 
Sound of Loud Trumpet thundering along from heaven to heaven
A mighty sound articulate Awake ye dead & come 
To judgment from the four winds Awake & Come away 
Folding like scrolls of the Enormous volume of Heaven & Earth"

And on and on it goes, much too imposing to describe in this short review. But two things will be said:
First, Blake draws on John's Apocalypse as he already has in Night viii. Revelation, the strangest book in the Bible, utterly incomprehensible to the literal mind, has much to offer to the trained imagination. To read the end of Plate 42 of Jerusalem with complete attention gives one a purchase on Blake's great source; Revelation begins to come alive in an exciting new way.

Jerusalem, Plate 42, (E 190)
"Los stood before his Furnaces awaiting the fury of the Dead: 
And the Divine hand was upon him, strengthening him mightily. 
The Spectres of the Dead cry out from the deeps beneath 
Upon the hills of Albion; Oxford groans in his iron furnace 
Winchester in his den & cavern; they lament against 
Albion: they curse their human kindness & affection 
They rage like wild beasts in the forests of affliction 
In the dreams of Ulro they repent of their human kindness. 
Come up, build Babylon, Rahab is ours & all her multitudes 
With her in pomp and glory of victory. Depart 
Ye twenty-four into the deeps! let us depart to glory! 
Their Human majestic forms sit up upon their Couches 
Of death: they curb their Spectres as with iron curbs 
They enquire after Jerusalem in the regions of the dead, 
With the voices of dead men, low, scarcely articulate, 
And with tears cold on their cheeks they weary repose. 
O when shall the morning of the grave appear, and when 
Shall our salvation come? we sleep upon our watch 
We cannot awake! and our Spectres rage in the forests 
O God of Albion where art thou! pity the watchers! 
Thus mourn they. Loud the Furnaces of Los thunder upon 
The clouds of Europe & Asia, among the Serpent Temples! 
And Los drew his Seven Furnaces around Albions Altars 
And as Albion built his frozen Altars, Los built the Mundane Shell, 
In the Four Regions of Humanity East & West & North & South,
Till Norwood & Finchley & Blackheath & Hounslow, coverd the whole Earth.
This is the Net & Veil of Vala, among the Souls of the Dead."
Yale center for British Art 
Plate 6
Second, as magnificent as it is, Blake simply wasn't able to 'Christianize' his apocalypse as he had done the two previous Nights. Perhaps it was already too deeply stamped with his pre-Christian mind. Forgiveness is the soul, virtually the alpha and omega of Blake's Christ, but Night ix shows little or no evidence of this new spirit. Only in Jerusalen, in its last plates, do we find a thoroughly Christian apocalypse. Neither Revelation nor Night ix has much of forgiveness; what they do have is vengeance and retribution. Both writers had suffered much at the hands of the ungodly, and both looked with anticipation to the Day of Vengeance. So we must say that Night ix is a modern redoing of John's Apocalypse, while the end of Jerusalem is a Christian recreation of it.

Blake's epic ends with the eternal man awake, his four zoas back in union, each carrying out his appointed function in the harmonious consummation of the Age. In the last harvest Urizen reaps, Tharmas threshes, Luvah tramples out the vineyard and Urthona bakes the bread.

Night ix contains much magnificent poetry. A few lines near the end will provide an appropriate end to this all too inadequate description of Blake's great poem:

Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 138, (E 406)
"The Sun has left his blackness & has found a fresher morning,
And the mild moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night,
And Man walks forth from the midst of the fires: the evil is all consumed.
He walks upon the Eternal Mountains, raising his heavenly voice,
Conversing with the Animal forms of wisdom night & day,
They raise their faces from the Earth, conversing with the Man:
How is it we have walk'd thro' fires & yet are not consum'd?
How is it that all things are chang'd, even as in ancient times?

The Sun arises from his dewey bed, & the fresh airs
Play in his smiling beams giving the seeds of life to grow,
And the fresh Earth beams forth ten thousand thousand springs of life."

Christian or not, it does have the most beautiful visions!

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