Tuesday, October 15, 2019


British Museum
"The Eagle. Ballad the Second" 
in Hayley's "Designs to a Series of Ballads"
Final verses of Hayley's ballad, The Eagle:
"She lives unhurt—unhurt too lies
    The baby in her clasp;
  And her aerial tyrant dies
    Just strangled in her grasp.

  What triumph swelled in Donald's breast,
    And o'er his features spread.
  When he his living mother prest,
    And held the Eagle dead!

  Angels, who left your realms of bliss.
    And on this parent smil'd,
  Guard every mother brave as this,
    In rescuing her child!"

When Hayley wrote his series of poems for Blake to illustrate, he portrayed the eagle as a sinister bird bent on harming an infant. This was contrary to the symbolic meaning which Blake gave to the eagle. The magnificent bird who dwelt in the heights incorporated genius and imagination to Blake. When Eternal death took hold of Man, the Eagle along with the Lion and the horse participated in the degradation. Although his bright eyes decayed the Eagle continued his watch over the Eternal Man sleeping in the Earth.

Marriage of heaven and Hell, Plate 9, (E 37)
"Proverbs of Hell
When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius. lift up thy head!"

Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 113, (E 384)
"O how the horrors of Eternal Death take hold on Man
His faint groans shake the caves & issue thro the desolate rocks

PAGE 113 [109] 
And the Strong Eagle now with num[m]ing cold blighted of feathers
Once like the pride of the sun now flagging in cold night
Hovers with blasted wings aloft watching with Eager Eye
Till Man shall leave a corruptible body he famishd hears him groan
And now he fixes his strong talons in the pointed rock 
And now he beats the heavy air with his enormous wings
Beside him lies the Lion dead & in his belly worms
Feast on his death till universal death devours all
And the pale horse seeks for the pool to lie him down & die
But finds the pools filled with serpents devouring one another
He droops his head & trembling stands & his bright eyes decay
These are the Visions of My Eyes the Visions of Ahania"

In this image Blake showed an eagle drawing near to the child without malice. The smiling child greeted the eagle as a friend while the mother expressed alarm. The child to Blake was open to imagination, while the woman was closed in her sense based cavern. 

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, PLATE 15, (E 39)
                            "A Memorable Fancy

   I was in a Printing house in Hell & saw the method in which
knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation.
   In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the
rubbish from a caves mouth; within, a number of Dragons were
hollowing the  cave, 
   In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock & the 
cave, and others adorning it with gold silver and precious
   In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air, 
he caused the inside of the cave to be infinite, around were
numbers  of Eagle like men, who built palaces in the immense
   In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire raging around
&  melting the metals into living fluids.
   In the fifth chamber were Unnam'd forms, which cast the metals 
into the expanse.
   There they were reciev'd by Men who occupied the sixth
chamber,  and took the forms of books & were arranged in

Visions of Daughters of Albion, Plate 2, (E 47) 
"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."

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Cleveland Art Museum

St Matthew and the Angel
Although there is no account in the Bible of the writer of the Gospel of Matthew having received his book by dictation from an angel, artists found this an attractive subject for a painting. When Blake was engaged by Thomas Butts to paint a series of pictures based on the Bible he included his own version of the event perhaps because he was familiar with paintings of the subject by accomplished artists.

A distinctive characteristic of Blake's image is that St Matthew is reading from the completed document rather than writing it from the angel's dictation. The angel simply holds the open scroll with Hebrew characters before Matthew who reacts with astonishment. Blake himself knew how it felt receive dictation from a spiritual source. Such a Spiritual Act had happened to him when he wrote "without Premeditation & even against my Will."

Cleveland Art Museum description of picture:
"The energy and awe with which the evangelist Saint Matthew responds to the angel presenting the divinely inspired text echoes William Blake’s attitude toward artistic inspiration. From childhood Blake experienced visions that are reflected in the otherworldliness of his work. While Blake was not embraced by the fine art establishment, a small group of patrons believed in his genius and commissioned works in which his unusual visions had free rein."

From article in Cleveland Art Museum's Magazine:
"Saint Matthew was painted for Thomas Butts, for whom Blake made at least 53 paintings of biblical themes between 1799 and 1803. Butts let Blake choose the subject: characteristically, in this case, a departure from traditional depictions of the angel dictating the gospel to Saint Matthew. Instead, Blake’s angel presents the completed text––a scroll with blood-red Hebrewesque letters––to the bewildered evangelist."

Letters, (E 728)
[To] Mr Butts, Grt Marlborough Street
Felpham April 25: 1803

"But none can know the Spiritual Acts of my three years Slumber on the banks of the Ocean unless he has seen them in the Spirit or unless he should read My long Poem descriptive of those Acts for I have in these three years composed an immense number of verses on One Grand Theme Similar to Homers Iliad or Miltons Paradise Lost the Person & Machinery intirely new to the Inhabitants of Earth (some of the Persons Excepted) I have written this Poem from immediate Dictation twelve or sometimes twenty or thirty lines at a time without Premeditation & even against my Will. the Time it has taken in writing was thus renderd Non Existent. & an immense Poem Exists which seems to be the Labour of a long Life all producd without Labour or Study. I mention this to shew you what I think the Grand Reason of my being brought down here"

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Blakean Bible

Wikimedia Commons
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Under the influence of the Bible and William Blake, Larry wrote these few words many years ago. 

"A free Blakean translation of John 3:16 with a touch of Philippians 2 added might read:

God so forgave the world that he annihilated his transcendent Deity and united himself through a corporeal sepulcher with sinful, materialistic man to lift us up to Eternity.

Here is the ultimate of spiritual authority, and those who meet Jesus begin to exercise it in the way that he did."

John 3
[15] That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
[16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
[17] For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
[18] He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
[19] And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
[20] For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
[21] But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
[22] After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

First John 4
[7] Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
[8] He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
[9] In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
[10] Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
[11Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
[12] No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
[13] Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

Philippians 2
[1] If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
[2] Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
[3] Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
[4] Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
[6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
[7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
[8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
[9] Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
[10] That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
[11] And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
[12] Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
[13] For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Gates of Paradise, For the Sexes, (E 269)
"13   But when once I did descry 
     The Immortal Man that cannot Die
14   Thro evening shades I haste away 
     To close the Labours of my Day
15   The Door of Death I open found                             
     And the Worm Weaving in the Ground
16   Thou'rt my Mother from the Womb 
     Wife, Sister, Daughter to the Tomb 
     Weaving to Dreams the Sexual strife
     And weeping over the Web of Life" 

Tuesday, October 08, 2019


British Musem
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts

Emily S Hamlin in William Blake and His Return to Illumination writes on Page 36 of the light that returned to Blake after he removed the obstacles obscuring his inner light:
"But the chief claim of the fourfold vision to the distinction of being typically human is that it is inspired from above. The spirit of the earth-man, lifted by regenerative effort and purified desire to the level upon which it can receive the spark from the Universal Mind, flashes into revealing vision.
The ineffable light shone out again for Blake at the end of the twenty years struggle one day after he had been at an exhibition of paintings which were temporarily in London. It made him 'drunk with intellectual vision.'  What is it? Whence does it come? Perhaps it would be easier to answer the question, When does it come? For Blake it came when he had eliminated all obscuring media between himself and the object... Is it, perchance, a light which emanates from the very center of being; from the essence of the soul? At all events it is a Light within a Light. Just as the vital principle is a Breath within the breath. Boehme, wise in such matters, says: "Man is an image of all divine forms and processes; but the knowledge of his essence stands only in the clearest light - the angelical light."

Blake's Return to Illumination was a process not an isolated event. Blake became aware of the stages which he had undergone after there was a sudden increase in his ability to see with clarity. This was the completion of a transformation through which he entered an enhanced understanding of his own psyche. The change became apparent externally in his poetry, his art, his relationships and in his self control.

But where does the process start? Is it when one is overcome with the recognition that love incorporates both the desire to be loved and the desire to love. Some seek first to find someone to whom they can give love. Others feel the need to be loved prior to wanting to love another. When I think of setting Orc free from his chain of Jealousy, I think of an individual who struggles to discern the difference. When one is free to discern that love is not a transaction with a balance sheet showing winners and losers he can break the chain which demands to receive from others what one deserves. For Blake there was a cascade of acts along the way to knowing that he was again seeing 'thru' the eye an unclouded image of reality.

Blake wrote of Orc as a powerful force in his earlier writing. He pictured Orc as young and strong and active. He wanted the qualities which Orc exhibited but he also wanted to be respected as mature, self-controlled and reflective. There developed a pattern in his life of explosive episodes which destroyed the productive output of rational periods. Blake wanted to be free of the internal conflicts which caused him to behave in ways which were repugnant to the dictates of his conscience. He initiated the process by attempting to set free the part of his own nature which was most difficult to control.

1. "set free Orc from his Chain of Jealousy"

2. "And all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot, As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold:"

3. "All that can be annihilated must be annihilated"

4. "To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination."

5. "Startled was Los   he found his Enemy Urizen now
In his hands. he wonderd that he felt love & not hate
His whole soul loved him he beheld him an infant
Lovely breathd from Enitharmon he trembled within himself"  6."but I was a slave bound in a mill among beasts and devils; these beasts and these devils are now, together with myself, become children of light and liberty, and my feet and my wife's feet are free from fetters." 6. "Suddenly, 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."  
7. "for I am really drunk with intellectual vision whenever I take a pencil or graver into my hand, even as I used to be in my youth, and as I have not been for twenty dark, but very profitable years."

Milton, Plate 20 [22], (E 115) 
"At last when desperation almost tore his heart in twain
He recollected an old Prophecy in Eden recorded,
And often sung to the loud harp at the immortal feasts
That Milton of the Land of Albion should up ascend
Forwards from Ulro from the Vale of Felpham; and set free        
Orc from his Chain of Jealousy, he started at the thought

PLATE 21 [23]
And down descended into Udan-Adan; it was night:
And Satan sat sleeping upon his Couch in Udan-Adan:
His Spectre slept, his Shadow woke; when one sleeps th'other wakes

But Milton entering my Foot; I saw in the nether
Regions of the Imagination; also all men on Earth,               
And all in Heaven, saw in the nether regions of the Imagination
In Ulro beneath Beulah, the vast breach of Miltons descent.
But I knew not that it was Milton, for man cannot know
What passes in his members till periods of Space & Time
Reveal the secrets of Eternity: for more extensive               
Than any other earthly things, are Mans earthly lineaments.

And all this Vegetable World appeard on my left Foot,
As a bright sandal formd immortal of precious stones & gold:
I stooped down & bound it on to walk forward thro' Eternity."

Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 142)
"But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
All that can be annihilated must be annihilated   

That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery
There is a Negation, & there is a Contrary
The Negation must be destroyd to redeem the Contraries
The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal           
Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.

PLATE 41 [48]
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering          
To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination
To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration
That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness"
Four Zoas, Page 98 [90], Night VII, Page (E 371)
"First his immortal spirit drew Urizen[s] Shadow away      
From out the ranks of war separating him in sunder
Leaving his Spectrous form which could not be drawn away     
Then he divided Thiriel the Eldest of Urizens sons
Urizen became Rintrah Thiriel became Palamabron
Thus dividing the powers of Every Warrior
Startled was Los he found his Enemy Urizen now
In his hands. he wonderd that he felt love & not hate     
His whole soul loved him he beheld him an infant
Lovely breathd from Enitharmon he trembled within himself

PAGE 90 [98]

         End of The Seventh Night"          

Letters, (E 756) "For now! O Glory! and O Delight! I have entirely reduced that spectrous Fiend to his station, whose annoyance has been the ruin of my labours for the last passed twenty years of my life. He is the enemy of conjugal love and is the Jupiter of the Greeks, an iron-hearted tyrant, the ruiner of ancient Greece. I speak with perfect confidence and certainty of the fact which has passed upon me. Nebuchadnezzar had seven times passed over him; I have had twenty; thank God I was not altogether a beast as he was; but I was a slave bound in a mill among beasts and devils; these beasts and these devils are now, together with myself, become children of light and liberty, and my feet and my wife's feet are free from fetters. O lovely Felpham, parent of Immortal Friendship, to thee I am eternally indebted for my three years' rest from perturbation and the strength I now enjoy. Suddenly, 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. Consequently I can, with confidence, promise you ocular demonstration of my altered state on the plates I am now engraving after Romney, whose spiritual aid has not a little conduced to my restoration to the light of Art. O the distress I have undergone, and my poor wife with me. Incessantly labouring and incessantly spoiling what I had done well. Every one of my friends was astonished at my faults, and could not assign a reason; they knew my industry and abstinence from every pleasure for the sake of study, and yet--and yet--and yet there wanted the proofs of industry in my works. I thank God with entire confidence that it shall be so no longer--he is become my servant who domineered over me, he is even as a brother who was my enemy. Dear Sir, excuse my enthusiasm or rather madness, for I am really drunk with intellectual vision whenever I take a pencil or graver into my hand, even as I used to be in my youth, and as I have not been for twenty dark, but very profitable years. I thank God that I courageously pursued my course through darkness. In a short time I shall make my assertion good that I am become suddenly as I was at first, by producing the Head of Romney and the Shipwreck quite another thing from what you or I ever expected them to be. In short, I am now satisfied and proud of my work, which I have not been for the above long period. If our excellent and manly friend Meyer is yet with you, please to make my wife's and my own most respectful and affectionate compliments to him, also to our kind friend at Lavant. I remain, with my wife's joint affection, Your sincere and obliged servant, WILL BLAKE" [From the Gilchrist Life]

Thursday, October 03, 2019


Yale Center for British Art
Tempera with pen and black ink on a copper engraving plate
The Horse
Blake had a long history of being disappointed in dealings with commercial printing projects. Another occurred when Hayley originated an enterprise in which Blake was to illustrate some ballads for children which Haley would provide. The local printer Seagrave would do the letterpress printing while Blake would supply four engravings for each poem. The expenses and the profits would both accrue to Blake. Hayley was trying to teach Blake to accumulate wealth but it didn't work out that way. Hayley and his affluent friends did not purchase enough copies to cover Blake's monetary expense, much less the labor that he and Catherine spent on engraving, printing, collating and distributing. 

Four of the projected sixteen ballads with their illustrations were released as broadsides about 1802. Later Blake engraved additional plates allowing for the publication of a book in 1805.  

Blake wrote to Hayley of his extreme disappointed that his engraving of The Horse was to be eliminated from the published book. The engraving work had already been done but he would not be paid if the ballad was not included. The Yale Center of British Art owns the painting which Blake made of his engraving of The Horse and considers it "the gem of the painting collection." A reproduction of the engraving, colored by Blake, is included in G.E. Bentley's Biography of William Blake (Pt 97.) It is a tiny image, 4 3/16 x 2 1/2 inches, done with meticulous care, richly colored and showing dimension and tension. 

I think that Blake's fondness for this image may have rested on more than the quality of his workmanship. I see in the woman the face and composure of Blake's Catherine. Her defense of the child from harm, is the protection which she gave to the work through which she and her husband made imagination manifest. The energy of the horse which dominates the picture is not suppressed but contained. Notice that the drama takes place below the surface of the ground and above the surface of the water. Perhaps Blake represented three kinds of strength in his image. The horse has the ferocity of creative energy seeking expression, the woman has the serenity of spirit whose power would not be overcome, the child received not only protection but release to carry her independent identity where it led her.   

Letters, (E 762)
[To William Hayley] [22 January 1805] "I must now express my thanks for your generous manner of proposing the Ballads to him on my account, and inform you of his advice concerning them; and he thinks that they should be published all together in a volume the size of the small edition of the Triumphs of Temper, with six or seven plates. That one thousand copies should be the first edition, and, if we choose, we might add to the number of plates in a second edition. And he will go equal shares with me in the expense and the profits, and that Seagrave is to be the printer. That we must consider all that has been printed as lost, and begin anew, unless we can apply some of the plates to the new edition. I consider myself as only put in trust with this work, and that the copyright is for ever yours. I therefore beg that you will not suffer it to be injured by my ignorance, or that it should in any way be separated from the grand bulk of your literary property. Truly proud I am to be in possession of this beautiful little estate; for that it will be highly productive I have no doubt, in the way now proposed; and I shall consider myself a robber to retain more than you at any time please to grant. In short, I am tenant at will, and may write over my door, as the poor barber did, "Money for live here." I entreat your immediate advice what I am to do, for I would not for the world injure this beautiful work, and cannot answer P[hillip]'s proposal till I have your directions and commands concerning it; for he wishes to set about it immediately, and has desired that I will give him my proposal concerning it in writing. I remain, dear Sir, Your obliged and affectionate WILL BLAKE" [From the Gilchrist Life]
Letters, (E 763) To William Hayley Esqre Felpham near Chichester, Sussex Friday [22 March 1805; Postmark: 25 March] Dear Sir This Morning I have been with Mr Phillips & have intirely settled with him the plan of Engraving for the new Edition of the Ballads--The Prints 5 in Number I have Engaged to finish by 28 May. they are to be as highly finishd as I can do them the Size the same as the Serena plates the Price 20 Guineas Each half to be paid by P-- The Subjects I cannot do better than those already chosen, as they are the most eminent among Animals Viz The Lion. The Eagle. The Horse. The Dog. Of the Dog Species the Two Ballads are so preeminent & my Designs for them please me so well that I have chosen that Design in our Last Number of the Dog & Crocodile. & that of the Dog defending his <dead> Master from the Vultures of these five I am making little high finishd Pictures the Size the Engravings are to be. & am hard at it to accomplish in time what I intend. Mr P--says he will send Mr Seagrave the Paper directly. ...
P.S. Your Desire that I should write a little Advertisement at the Beginning of the Ballads has set my Brains to work & at length producd the following. Simplicity as you desired has been my first object. I send it for your Correction or Condemnation begging you to supply its deficiency or to New Create it according to your wish. _____________________ The Public ought to be informd that [The following] <These> Ballads were the Effusions of Friendship to Countenance what their Author is kindly pleased to call Talents for Designing. and to relieve my more laborious [employment] engagement of Engraving those Portraits which accompany The Life of Cowper Out of a number of Designs I have selected Five hope that the Public will approve of my rather giving few highly labourd Plates than a greater number & less finishd. If I have succeeded in these more may be added at Pleasure WILL BLAKE" Letters, (E 765) [4 June 1805] Dear Sir, I have fortunately, I ought to say providentially, discovered that I have engraved one of the plates for that ballad of The Horse which is omitted in the new edition; time enough to save the extreme loss and disappointment which I should have suffered had the work been completed without that ballad's insertion. I write to entreat that you would contrive so as that my plate may come into the work, as its omission would be to me a loss that I could not now sustain, as it would cut off ten guineas from my next demand on Phillips, which sum I am in absolute want of; as well as that I should lose all the labour I have been at on that plate, which I consider as one of my best; I know it has cost me immense labour. The way in which I discovered this mistake is odd enough. Mr. Phillips objects altogether to the insertion of my Advertisement, calling it an appeal to charity, and says it will hurt the sale of the work, and he sent to me the last sheet by the penny (that is, the twopenny) post, desiring that I would forward it to Mr. Seagrave. But I have inclosed it to you, as you ought and must see it. I am no judge in these matters, and leave all to your decision, as I know that you will do what is right on all hands. Pray accept my and my wife's sincerest love and gratitude. WILL BLAKE" [From the Gilchrist Life]

British Museum
Illustration to "The Horse. Ballad the Sixteenth" in Hayley's "Ballads" 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019


Milton, Plate 36 [40], (E 137) 
"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. 
Walking in my Cottage Garden, sudden I beheld
The Virgin Ololon & address'd her as a Daughter of Beulah[:] 
Virgin of Providence fear not to enter into my Cottage
What is thy message to thy friend: What am I now to do
Is it again to plunge into deeper affliction? behold me 
Ready to obey, but pity thou my Shadow of Delight 
Enter my Cottage, comfort her, for she is sick with fatigue" 
Milton, Plate 42 [49], (E 143)
"Then as a Moony Ark Ololon descended to Felphams Vale
In clouds of blood, in streams of gore, with dreadful thunderings
Into the Fires of Intellect that rejoic'd in Felphams Vale
Around the Starry Eight: with one accord the Starry Eight became 
One Man Jesus the Saviour. wonderful! round his limbs 
The Clouds of Ololon folded as a Garment dipped in blood
Written within & without in woven letters: & the Writing
Is the Divine Revelation in the Litteral expression:
A Garment of War, I heard it namd the Woof of Six Thousand Years 
And I beheld the Twenty-four Cities of Albion
Arise upon their Thrones to Judge the Nations of the Earth
And the Immortal Four in whom the Twenty-four appear Four-fold
Arose around Albions body: Jesus wept & walked forth 
From Felphams Vale clothed in Clouds of blood, to enter into 
Albions Bosom, the bosom of death & the Four surrounded him
In the Column of Fire in Felphams Vale; then to their mouths the Four
Applied their Four Trumpets & them sounded to the Four winds 
Terror struck in the Vale I stood at that immortal sound
My bones trembled. I fell outstretchd upon the path 
A moment, & my Soul returnd into its mortal state
To Resurrection & Judgment in the Vegetable Body
And my sweet Shadow of Delight stood trembling by my side 
Immediately the Lark mounted with a loud trill from Felphams Vale
And the Wild Thyme from Wimbletons green & impurpled Hills 
And Los & Enitharmon rose over the Hills of Surrey
Their clouds roll over London with a south wind, soft Oothoon
Pants in the Vales of Lambeth weeping oer her Human Harvest
Los listens to the Cry of the Poor Man: his Cloud
Over London in volume terrific, low bended in anger. 
Rintrah & Palamabron view the Human Harvest beneath 
Their Wine-presses & Barns stand open; the Ovens are prepar'd 
The Waggons ready: terrific Lions & Tygers sport & play 
All Animals upon the Earth, are prepard in all their strength 
PLATE 43 [50] 
To go forth to the Great Harvest & Vintage of the Nations 

New York Public Library
Plate 46 [50]
Twice in Milton Blake mentions his Shadow of Delight. In these instances he is speaking in his own voice, not as Milton, Los or one of the other characters. These are transition passages between the visionary world which Blake was exploring in order to reconcile relationships among mental constructs, and the ordinary world in which his was the thinking mind constructing an imaginary world. Catherine was the Shadow of Delight because he was related to her in the Vegetated Body which resided in the mortal world. Catherine, of course, was more than a Vegetated Body because her true identity was as an Immortal Soul. 

In these passages we watch as Blake negotiates the portal between two worlds. Although it may be difficult to enter a higher state of consciousness, it is not easy to return to ordinary consciousness either. It is likely that Blake knew that it was Catherine who made it possible to maintain a connection to the mortal world in which he lived as an ordinary man who could observe the outer world with a rational mind, and delight in his wife. 

The image is not of Catherine or of Enitharmon. Ololon is portrayed removing the garment of materality as she ventures forth to the 'Great Harvest & Vintage.' The Vegetated Body stands aside to witness the reconciliation of the scattered portions.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


Blake filled Robert's notebook after his beloved Brother's death. When he ran out of pages he turned the notebook upside down and filled it from the opposite direction. The portrait
of Catherine was inverted when he wrote text for A Vision for the Last Judgment.

Among the notes and sketches in Blake's Notebook appear two images of his wife. Bake used the Notebook to record images and ideas as they occurred to him. These two images were not intended for inclusion in future works of art. They were spontaneous responses to the domestic scene which surrounded him. This was the woman who shared his bed and his table, who ran errands for him and helped with the printing process. She was Enitharmon to Blake's Los. When inspiration came to him, she helped him bring his vision into the physical world.  
"And first he drew a line upon the walls of shining heaven    
And Enitharmon tincturd it with beams of blushing love"
                                                                          Four Zoas 

If William and Catherine had to struggle to adapt to living together as husband and wife, we would find remnants of their striving in Blake's poetry and pictures. In the Four Zoas, Enitharmon suggested to Los that her efforts had less value or permanence than his did. The products of her hands 'vanish again into my bosom.' If her work could be assimilated into the forms sublime which Los was fabricating, their life together would acquire a new dimension.

This can be seen as a breakthrough in the relationship of the young couple. If William recognized that Catherine was capable of working as an artist alongside him as he produced the Illuminated Books, it would eliminate some of the tension between them. Her creative energy would be directed toward producing something of real sustained value. He would benefit by not being alone against all the forces which conspired to thwart his achieving his aspirations.

Alexander Gilchrist wrote in his early biography of Blake that the production of the Illuminated Books was a joint project. Other authors may be dependent on designers, engravers, printers and publishers but Blake found another way to present the product of his creativity. Together "the Poet and his wife did everything in making the book, - writing, designing, printing, engraving, - everything except manufacturing the paper: the very ink, or color rather, they did make." He didn't mention coloring the images and binding the books at which Catherine became proficient.

Four Zoas, Night VII, Page 98 [90], (E 370) 
Enitharmon spread her beaming locks upon the wind & said   
O Lovely terrible Los wonder of Eternity O Los my defence & guide 
Thy works are all my joy. & in thy fires my soul delights
If mild they burn in just proportion & in secret night
And silence build their day in shadow of soft clouds & dews
Then I can sigh forth on the winds of Golgonooza piteous forms  
That vanish again into my bosom   but if thou my Los
Wilt in sweet moderated fury. fabricate forms sublime    
Such as the piteous spectres may assimilate themselves into
They shall be ransoms for our Souls that we may live

So Enitharmon spoke & Los his hands divine inspired began  
To modulate his fires studious the loud roaring flames
He vanquishd with the strength of Art bending their iron points
And drawing them forth delighted upon the winds of Golgonooza 
From out the ranks of Urizens war & from the fiery lake
Of Orc bending down as the binder of the Sheaves follows   
The reaper in both arms embracing the furious raging flames
Los drew them forth out of the deeps planting his right foot firm
Upon the Iron crag of Urizen thence springing up aloft
Into the heavens of Enitharmon in a mighty circle

And first he drew a line upon the walls of shining heaven    
And Enitharmon tincturd it with beams of blushing love

It remaind permanent a lovely form inspird divinely human
Dividing into just proportions Los unwearied labourd
The immortal lines upon the heavens till with sighs of love
Sweet Enitharmon mild Entrancd breathd forth upon the wind   
The spectrous dead Weeping the Spectres viewd the immortal works
Of Los Assimilating to those forms Embodied & Lovely
In youth & beauty in the arms of Enitharmon mild reposing"
Jerusalem, Plate 14, (E 158) "Los also views the Four Females: Ahania, and Enion, and Vala, and Enitharmon lovely. And from them all the lovely beaming Daughters of Albion, Ahania & Enion & Vala, are three evanescent shades: Enitharmon is a vegetated mortal Wife of Los: His Emanation, yet his Wife till the sleep of death is past. Such are the Buildings of Los! & such are the Woofs of Enitharmon!"

Monday, September 23, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Drawing by Catherine Blake
Information from Fitzwilliam Museum:
Date of drawing circa 1827 — 1831
Said to have been given by Mrs Blake to a friend who sold it c. 1886 to Daniels (a printseller in Mortimer Street, London); bt. by Herbert P. Horne (d. 1916); acquired by E.H. Marsh in 1904, bequeathed 1953; Marsh, Edward Howard

As part of the grieving process after the death of William, Catherine drew this portrait of her husband as she remembered him as a young man. From it we learn of the appearance of young William. From it we see also that Catherine had a remarkable visual memory and considerable artistic skill with the pencil.

In the portrait the penetrating eye of Blake is clearly seen. The brow betrays his active mind which he applied to understanding a troubled world. His mouth reveals his determination to reveal the infinite in all things. His wirey hair indicates his exuberant personality.

After he died Catherine had a strong desire to continue the work that she had done with William. He had tried to preserve his creations in his lifetime by getting them into the hands of people who knew their value. Now it was her responsibility to preserve what remained with her, as best she could. Although it is believed that much was lost through poor decisions, somehow a large quantity of the work remains for the enjoyment and enrichment of those who appreciate it.

In the Halls of Los all that is created through Imagination does not pass away but is permanent, it is part of the Spiritual Reality which endures. 

Jerusalem, Plate 16, (E 161)
"All things acted on Earth are seen in the bright Sculptures of
Los's Halls
& every Age renews its powers from these Works
With every pathetic story possible to happen from Hate or
Wayward Love & every sorrow & distress is carved here
Every Affinity of Parents Marriages & Friendships are here
In all their various combinations wrought with wondrous Art

All that can happen to Man in his pilgrimage of seventy years
Such is the Divine Written Law of Horeb & Sinai:
And such the Holy Gospel of Mount Olivet & Calvary:" 

In this letter we read of Catherine working independently of William as she undertook the job of printing the Plates for the Cowper book for Hayley.

Letters, To James Blake, (E 726)
"Felpham Jany 30--1803.
Dear Brother
My Wife has undertaken to Print
the whole number of the Plates for Cowpers work which she does to
admiration & being under my own
eye the prints are as fine as the French prints & please every
one. in short I have Got every thing so under my thumb that it is
more profitable that things should be as they are than any other
way, tho not so agreeable because we wish naturally for
friendship in preference to interest.--The Publishers are already
indebted to My Wife Twenty Guineas for work deliverd this is a
small specimen of how we go on. then fear nothing & let my Sister
fear nothing because it appears to me that I am now too old &
have had too much experience to be any longer imposed upon only
illness makes all uncomfortable & this we must prevent by every
means in our power"

When Blake returned to London after his trial for sedition in Chichester he found Catherine ill from the anxiety of being uncertain of the trial's outcome.

 Letters,  (E 740)
"To William Hayley Esqre Felpham
near Chichester, Sussex

London Jany 14. 1804
My poor
wife has been near the Gate of Death as was supposed by our kind
& attentive fellow inhabitant. the young & very amiable Mrs
Enoch. who gave my wife all the attention that a daughter could
pay to a mother but my arrival has dispelld the formidable malady
& my dear & good woman again begins to resume her health &
strength--Pray my dear Sir." 

Later in the year Blake wrote to Hayley reporting on Catherine's remarkable 
recovery from rheumatism.

Letters, (E 755)
"[To William Hayley]
[23 October 1804]
Dear Sir
My wife
returns her heartfelt thanks for your kind inquiry concerning her
health.  She is surprisingly recovered.  Electricity is the
wonderful cause; the swelling of her legs and knees is entirely
reduced.  She is very near as free from rheumatism as she was
five years ago, and we have the greatest confidence in her
perfect recovery."

Saturday, September 21, 2019


From Private Collection
Sketch of Catherine
True marriage is a mystical bond. It depends upon two people having the desire to achieve a meeting of their minds. Unless each partner is capable of appreciating the other's differences as benefits to the union, there will be strife and dissension. William and Catherine Blake did not marry because they recognized only their similarities, but because they valued the qualities in the other which were absent in themselves. William needed the stability of Catherine, while she needed the stimulation of his active mind. There were things each gave up to accommodate the other. Any hope she may have had for a conventional life she relinquished; something of his fiery, contentious nature he subdued. They each valued the condition of marriage more than the need to realize his/her own individual desires.   

Catherine was not educated; in fact she signed her marriage certificate with an X. But William did not value formal education since he never sat at the foot of a schoolmaster himself. Catherine, the daughter of a green grocer, married at twenty years of age. She was prepared for a simple life of working with her husband who taught her the skills she needed in order to assist his career. What was her unique contribution over the years was a calmness of spirit upon which William could rely when his fierce need to create overstimulated his mind. 

In The Stranger from Paradise, a Biography of William Blake by G.E. Bentley, Jr, there is a quote from Frederick Tatum:

"he fancied , that while she looked at him, as he worked, her sitting quite still by...[his] side, doing nothing, soothed his tempestuous mind & he has many a time when a strong desire presented itself to overcome any difficulty in the Plates or Drawings, ... in the middle of the night risen & requested her to get up with him & sit by his side, in which she cheerfully acquiesced". Page 70

Gates of Paradise, For the Sexes, (E 268)
16 Thou'rt my Mother from the Womb
     Wife, Sister, Daughter to the Tomb
     Weaving to Dreams the Sexual strife
     And weeping over the Web of Life
Four Zoas, Night IX, Page 122, (E 391)
"The winter thou shalt plow & lay thy stores into thy barns       
Expecting to recieve Ahania in the spring with joy
Immortal thou. Regenerate She & all the lovely Sex
From her shall learn obedience & prepare for a wintry grave
That spring may see them rise in tenfold joy & sweet delight
Thus shall the male & female live the life of Eternity           
Because the Lamb of God Creates himself a bride & wife
That we his Children evermore may live in Jerusalem
Which now descendeth out of heaven a City yet a Woman
Mother of myriads redeemd & born in her spiritual palaces
By a New Spiritual birth Regenerated from Death                  

Urizen Said. I have Erred & my Error remains with me"

Songs and Ballads, Blake's notebook, (E 481)
"I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth    
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily"

Letters, (E 709)
"To William Hayley Esqre at Miss Pooles, Lavant
near Chichester, Sussex
Hercules Buildings Lambeth Sept 16. 1800

Leader of My Angels
     My Dear & too careful & over joyous Woman has Exhausted her
strength to such a degree with expectation & gladness added to
labour in our removal that I fear it will be Thursday before we
can get away from this---- City   I shall not be able to avail
myself of the assistance of Brunos fairies.  But I invoke the
Good Genii that Surround Miss Pooles Villa to shine upon my
journey thro the Petworth road which by your fortunate advice I
mean to take but whether I come on Wednesday or Thursday That Day
shall be marked on my calendar with a Star of the first magnitude
     Eartham will be my first temple & altar My wife is like a
flame of many colours of precious jewels whenever she hears it
named Excuse my haste & recieve my hearty Love & Respect
I am Dear Sir
Your Sincere

My fingers Emit sparks of fire with Expectation of my future

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


First posted November 2009

Blake's best known short poem is from Songs of Innocence and Experience (E24)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?"

A second occurrence of the line from Tyger, ' the stars threw down their spears,' appears in the Four Zoas, Night Five, Plate 64 (E344)
. Urizen is speaking.

"O Fool could I forget the light that filled my bright spheres
Was a reflection of his face who calld me from the deep

I well remember for I heard the mild & holy voice
Saying O light spring up & shine & I sprang up from the deep
He gave to me a silver scepter & crownd me with a golden crown
& said Go forth & guide my Son who wanders on the ocean

I went not forth. I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath
I calld the stars around my feet in the night of councils dark
The stars threw down their spears & fled naked away
We fell. I siezd thee dark Urthona In my left hand falling

I siezd thee beauteous Luvah"

Judging from the amount of interest there is in Blake's Tyger, it hooks into an archetypal reality which is easily activated. There is much agreement that Tyger is saying something important, but little agreement on what it is saying. Here is another stab.

One mystifying line in the poem, "when the stars threw down their spears," appears also in the Four Zoas at a critical moment when Urizen/Satan refuses obedience to the Almighty. At that point a chain reaction begins - with the stars. So the line in Tyger reminds us of the cataclysmic event when Urizen fell and took with him Urthona and Luvah.

Three Zoas Falling

It is easy for me to see Tyger as autobiographical. The conflict within Blake of his reason and imagination, is expressed in the dynamic battle between Urizen and Los thoughout Blake's myth. The tyger himself can represent the battlefield Blake sees within. Forces of beauty, restraint, explosive activity and expanded consciousness compete for dominance. Blake's struggle is to achieve that balance which will allow his imagination a free reign of expression, without becoming an uncontrolled destructive force.

Look at the words in Tyger that make one think
of Los: fire, hammer, anvil, furnace, chain;
of Urizen: bright, aspire, seize, stars;
of Luvah: heart, began to beat;
of Jesus: tears, smile, work, Lamb.

The multiple parts within the human mind make possible an internal state of competition. But the use of the word 'symmetry' signifies to me the balanced pattern in which Blake saw the Four Zoas as aspects of the psyche. The symmetry becomes fearful when the delicate alignment is disturbed. We have seen how every aspect of the Divine Humanity is affected by any refusal of a Zoa to accept his appointed role. (See blog post Fallen Zoas) All are 'members of one another'. (Paul - Ephesians 4:25)

The Tyger's fascination may come from the unresolved tension which it portrays - a state we each frequently experience.