Thursday, July 25, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Paradise Regained
Christ refusing the banquet
Paradise Regained, Book 2
"But now I feel I hunger, which declares,
Nature hath need of what she asks; yet God
Can satisfie that need some other way,
Though hunger still remain: so it remain [ 255 ]
Without this bodies wasting, I content me,
And from the sting of Famine fear no harm, the
Nor mind it, fed with better thoughts that feed
Mee hungring more to do my Fathers will.
When suddenly a man before him stood,
Not rustic as before, but seemlier clad,
As one in City, or Court, or Palace bred, [ 300 ]
And with fair speech these words to him address'd.

With granted leave officious I return,
But much more wonder that the Son of God
In this wild solitude so long should bide
Of all things destitute, and well I know, [ 305 ]
Not without hunger. Others of some note,
As story tells, have trod this Wilderness;
He spake no dream, for as his words had end,
Our Saviour lifting up his eyes beheld
In ample space under the broadest shade
A Table richly spred, in regal mode, [ 340 ]
With dishes pil'd, and meats of noblest sort
Thou art unknown, unfriended, low of birth,
A Carpenter thy Father known, thy self
Bred up in poverty and streights at home; [ 415 ]
Lost in a Desert here and hunger-bit:
Which way or from what hope dost thou aspire
To greatness? whence Authority deriv'st,
What Followers, what Retinue canst thou gain,
Riches are mine, Fortune is in my hand;
They whom I favour thrive in wealth amain, [ 430 ]
While Virtue, Valor, Wisdom, sit in want.

To whom thus Jesus patiently reply'd;
Yet Wealth without these three is impotent,
To gain dominion or to keep it gain'd."

Milton revisits  the situation of Jesus' hunger after being without food for forty days in the wilderness. Satan had previously offered to change stone into bread. But the purpose for that temptation was to induce Jesus to call upon God for miraculous intervention. Now, through the hunger of Jesus, Satan proposes to appeal to a desire for a life of luxury commensurate to 'one in City, or Court, or Palace bred' as Satan presented himself.

Satan, however, knows only of worldly rewards which have no appeal to Jesus who knows that 'Virtue, Valor, Wisdom' can flourish in poverty. The mature Jesus will say to his followers 'Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.' His time in the wilderness may have been the origin of his willingness to reject the finery and comforts gained by pursuing Satan's way instead of the vision he received at his baptism.

Both John Milton and William Blake had faced choices such as Satan offered to Jesus. To some extent they each had pursued the path of success and affluence for a time and had rejected it to follow his own vision which was incompatible with the world's expectations. Milton inserted the temptation to seek worldly satisfactions into Paradise Regained knowing that this was a temptations to which many in his own age were receptive. Jesus, however, saw that wealth was no substitute for the pursuits of a life of integrity.
Matthew 6
 [25] Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
[33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
[34] Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 

Matthew 9
[20] The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
[21] Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
[22] But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

Luke 14
[11] For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
[12] Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
[13] But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
[14] And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Mark 8
[35] For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
[36] For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
[37] Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Songs and Ballads, Blake's Notebook, (E 481)
"I rose up at the dawn of day
Get thee away get thee away
Prayst thou for Riches away away
This is the Throne of Mammon grey

Said I this sure is very odd                                     
I took it to be the Throne of God
For every Thing besides I have
It is only for Riches that I can crave

I have Mental Joy & Mental Health
And Mental Friends & Mental wealth             
Ive a Wife I love & that loves me
Ive all But Riches Bodily
I am in Gods presence night & day      
And he never turns his face away
The accuser of sins by my side does stand                      
And he holds my money bag in his hand

For my worldly things God makes him pay        
And hed pay for more if to him I would pray
And so you may do the worst you can do
Be assurd Mr Devil I wont pray to you                         
Then If for Riches I must not Pray
God knows I little of Prayers need say
So as a Church is known by its Steeple         
If I pray it must be for other People          

He says if I do not worship him for a God                     
I shall eat coarser food & go worse shod
So as I dont value such things as these
You must do Mr Devil just as God please"

Satiric Verses, (E 516)
"Since all the Riches of this World             
May be gifts from the Devil & Earthly Kings 
I should suspect that I worshipd the Devil 
If I thankd my God for Worldly things"          

Annotations to Swedenborg, (E 606)
   "Many perversely understand him. as if man while in the body
was only conversant with natural Substances, because themselves
are mercenary & worldly & have no idea of any but worldly gain"

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Milton's Paradise Regained
Satan addressing his potentates

Paradise Regained, Book 2
"How to begin, how to accomplish best
His end of being on Earth, and mission high:
For Satan with slye preface to return [ 115 ]
Had left him vacant, and with speed was gon
Up to the middle Region of thick Air,
Where all his Potentates in Council sate;
There without sign of boast, or sign of joy,
Sollicitous and blank he thus began. [ 120 ]

Princes, Heavens antient Sons, Æthereal Thrones,
Demonian Spirits now, from the Element
Each of his reign allotted, rightlier call'd,
Powers of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth beneath,
So may we hold our place and these mild seats [ 125 ]
Without new trouble; such an Enemy
Is ris'n to invade us, who no less
Threat'ns then our expulsion down to Hell;
I, as I undertook, and with the vote
Consenting in full frequence was impow'r'd, [ 130 ]
Have found him, view'd him, tasted him, but find
Far other labour to be undergon
Then when I dealt with Adam first of Men,"

Following the development of Milton's account in Paradise Regained, Satan had learned of Jesus being recognized as the Son of God at his baptism. In Paradise Lost Satan had fallen from God's presence through his reaction to the way that God favored his new creation Adam. A third of the angels followed Satan when he departed from heaven. After Satan and his followers were defeated by the Archangel Michael and the loyal angels, they were banished to hell.  

Blake's fifth illustration to Paradise Regained shows Satan's reaction to learning that Jesus has been selected by God to bring salvation to mankind. Satan notifies the rebel angels that he will tempt Jesus as he had tempted Adam and Eve. Satan expects to have more difficulty drawing Jesus away from God than he did Adam, but thinks himself up to the challenge.

Anna Beer, in her biography Milton, Poet, Pamphleteer, and Patriot is interested in how the Son's 'true status and destiny' are revealed in Paradise Regained:
"Satan certainly does not fully comprehend who he is dealing with. He only sees that the Son is 'unfriended, of low of birth'. He tells his followers in hell, still ready to take his lead, that 'Who this is we must learn, for man he seems...' Moreover, the Son himself remains unaware of the way in which he will fulfill his redemptive purpose, how he will indeed restore Eden. Thus the poem as a whole not only celebrates 'one man's firm obedience, fully tried but shows how the trial of that obedience enables the Son to understand fully his own role in Humanity's redemption." (Page 367)  

Although there is no account in the bible of Milton's story of Satan's rebellion, there are passages which allude to the struggle on which Milton based his tale.

In the beginning of The Four Zoas Blake quoted verses from Ephesians which do not mention Satan or angels but principalities, powers and rulers of darkness:

Ephesians 6
[10] Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
[11] Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
[12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
[13] Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

This verse from Jude suggests Milton's fallen angels confined in everlasting darkness:

[6] And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.

In second Peter we read of angels who sinned, were cast into hell and await the day of judgment:

2 Peter 2

[4] For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
[5] And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
[6] And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
[7] And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
[8] (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
[9] The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

This verse in Luke uses the image of Satan falling as lightning from heaven in conjunction with the power of the name of Jesus:

Luke 10
[16] He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
[17] And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
[18] And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Milton's Paradise Regained
Mary's lamentation for Christ

Paradise Regained, Book 2

"Thus they out of their plaints new hope resume
To find whom at the first they found unsought:
But to his Mother Mary, when she saw [ 60 ]
Others return'd from Baptism, not her Son,
Nor left at Jordan, tydings of him none;
Within her brest, though calm; her brest though pure,
Motherly cares and fears got head, and rais'd
reminisences Some troubl'd thoughts, which she in sighs thus clad. [ 65 ]
Thus Mary pondering oft, and oft to mind [ 105 ]
Recalling what remarkably had pass'd
Since first her Salutation heard, with thoughts
Meekly compos'd awaited the fulfilling:
The while her Son tracing the Desert wild,
Sole but with holiest Meditations fed, [ 110 ]
Into himself descended, and at once
All his great work to come before him set;"

Milton used the reminiscences of Jesus' mother to recount the birth and childhood of Jesus. Mary recalls everything contained in the gospels about Jesus up to the time of his baptism. In his illustration Blake shows Mary sitting in a shelter similar to that pictured in On the Morning of Christ's Nativity. Mary is alone, she is seated on stone steps with a spindle near at hand. With his picture Blake has introduced doubts about Mary's ability to understand her son - his level of consciousness and the struggle to which he is called. Blake used the symbol of the physical side of man being transmitted through the Mother, and the spiritual side through the Father. The spindle is symbolic of the process through which spirits receive bodies when they are born into the material world. Blake's poem To Tirzah is his clearest statement of the attitude that mortality is represented by the advent of the feminine.

Songs of Experience, Song 52, (E 30) 
"To Tirzah    

Whate'er is Born of Mortal Birth,
Must be consumed with the Earth
To rise from Generation free;
Then what have I to do with thee?

The Sexes sprung from Shame & Pride
Blow'd in the morn: in evening died
But Mercy changd Death into Sleep;
The Sexes rose to work & weep.

Thou Mother of my Mortal part.
With cruelty didst mould my Heart. 
And with false self-decieving tears,
Didst bind my Nostrils Eyes & Ears.

Didst close my Tongue in senseless clay
And me to Mortal Life betray:
The Death of Jesus set me free,  
Then what have I to do with thee?

[text on illustration: It is Raised a Spiritual Body]"

If the physical nature of humanity is represented by Mary, the spiritual nature finds expression in the angels whose bodies seem to form the enclosure in which Mary sits. The pondering of Mary is her attempt to reconcile the two natures. She watches as the child becomes a man without being able to fully comprehend the internal development of the boy whose consciousness is directed to a world beyond the scope of her comprehension.

Luke 2
[15] And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
[16] And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
[17] And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
[18] And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
[19] But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
[42] And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
[43] And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.
[44] But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.
[45] And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.
[46] And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
[47] And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.
[48] And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.
[49] And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
[50] And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.
[51] And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
[52] And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Thel, Plate 5, (E 5)
"But he that loves the lowly, pours his oil upon my head.
And kisses me, and binds his nuptial bands around my breast.
And says; Thou mother of my children, I have loved thee.
And I have given thee a crown that none can take away
But how this is, sweet maid, I know not, and I cannot know,       
I ponder, and I cannot ponder; yet I live and love.

The daughter of beauty wip'd her pitying tears with her white veil,
And said. Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep:
That God would love a Worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
That wilful, bruis'd its helpless form: but that he cherish'd it 
With milk and oil, I never knew; and therefore did I weep," 

Friday, July 19, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Milton's Paradise Regained
Andrew and Peter searching for Christ
Paradise Regained, Book 2

"Meanwhile the new-baptiz'd, who yet remain'd
At Jordan with the Baptist, and had seen
Him whom they heard so late expressly call'd
Jesus Messiah Son of God declar'd,
And on that high Authority had believ'd, [ 5 ]
And with him talkt, and with him lodg'd, I mean
Andrew and Simon, famous after known
With others though in Holy Writ not nam'd,
Now missing him thir joy so lately found,
So lately found, and so abruptly gone, [ 10 ]
Began to doubt, and doubted many days,
And as the days increas'd, increas'd thir doubt:
Sometimes they thought he might be only shewn,
And for a time caught up to God,
Behold the kings of the Earth how they oppress
Thy chosen, to what highth thir pow'r unjust [ 45 ]
They have exalted, and behind them cast
All fear of thee, arise and vindicate
Thy Glory, free thy people from thir yoke,
But let us wait; thus far He hath perform'd,
Sent his Anointed, and to us reveal'd him,"

Mark 1
[13] And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
[14] Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
[15] And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
[16] Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
[17] And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
[18] And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

Book Two of Paradise Regained returns the scene to the Jordon River where John the Baptist and his followers remember the baptism of Jesus and Voice which identified him as the Son of God. Andrew and his brother Simon were among the group who hoped that they had witnessed the coming of the Messiah. As they saw no tangible results of the event they had witnessed, they became disheartened. When they thought of the patience that was required of their ancestors as they waited for the Lord to act, they determined to be patient and wait because they had themselves witnessed a revelation of the Lord's Anointed.

The biblical account does not indicate that Andrew and Simon were present at Jesus' baptism. The two fishermen instead responded to the call which Jesus initiated. It was Milton who created the concept of Andrew and Simon seeking Jesus after an initial observation at the baptism. In creating his illustrations Blake chose to give prominence to the idea that the fishermen had been made ready to answer the call of Jesus by their internal preparation of recognition of the unique event at the baptism of Jesus, association with accounts in their scriptures, seeking to keep sight of the man who was singled out a the Son of God, and waiting until they had the opportunity to follow him.

The gestures of the four figures in Blake's illustration suggest recognition and acceptance on the part of the two disciples; and praise and gratitude on the part of the two angels. 
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 541)
"The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision
as real and existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and
immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the
more distinct the object.  A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the 
modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour or a
nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all
that the mortal and perishing nature can produce.  He who does
not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger
and better light than his perishing mortal eye can see does not
imagine at all."  
John 1
[35] Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;
[36] And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!
[37] And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
[38] Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
[39] He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
[40] One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
[41] He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
[42] And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum  
Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained
Christ tempted by Satan to turn the stones into bread

Paradise Regained
Book 1
"pronounc'd me his,
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone [ 285 ]
He was well pleas'd; by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes
The Authority which I deriv'd from Heaven.
And now by some strong motion I am led [ 290 ]
Into this Wilderness, to what intent
I learn not yet, perhaps I need not know;
For what concerns my knowledge God reveals.
Full forty days he pass'd, whether on hill
Sometimes, anon in shady vale, each night
Under the covert of some ancient Oak, [ 305 ]
Or Cedar, to defend him from the dew,
Or harbour'd in one Cave, is not reveal'd;
Nor tasted humane food, nor hunger felt
Till those days ended, hunger'd then at last
Among wild Beasts: they at his sight grew mild, [ 310 ]
Nor sleeping him nor waking harm'd, his walk
The fiery Serpent fled and noxious Worm,
The Lion and fierce Tiger glar'd aloof.
But now an aged man in Rural weeds,
Following, as seem'd, the quest of some stray Ewe, [ 315 ]
Or wither'd sticks to gather; which might serve
Against a Winters day when winds blow keen,
To warm him wet return'd from field at Eve,
He saw approach; who first with curious eye
Perus'd him, then with words thus utt'red spake. [ 320 ]
Sir, what ill chance hath brought thee to this place
So far from path or road of men, who pass
In Troop or Caravan, for single none
Durst ever, who return'd, and dropt not here
His Carcass, pin'd with hunger and with droughth? [ 325 ]
I ask the rather, and the more admire,
For that to me thou seem'st the man, whom late
Our new baptizing Prophet at the Ford
Of Jordan honour'd so, and call'd thee Son
Of God; I saw and heard, for we sometimes [ 330 ]
Who dwell this wild, constrain'd by want, come forth
To Town or Village nigh (nighest is far)
Where ought we hear, and curious are to hear,
What happ'ns new; Fame also finds us out.
To whom the Son of God. Who brought me hither [ 335 ]
Will bring me hence, no other Guide I seek.
By Miracle he may, reply'd the Swain,
What other way I see not, for we here
Live on tough roots and stubs, to thirst inur'd
More then the Camel, and to drink go far, [ 340 ]
Men to much misery and hardship born;
But if thou be the Son of God, Command
That out of these hard stones be made thee bread;
So shalt thou save thyself and us relieve
With Food, whereof we wretched seldom taste. [ 345 ]
He ended, and the Son of God reply'd.
Think'st thou such force in Bread? is it not written
(For I discern thee other then thou seem'st)
Man lives not by Bread only, but each Word
Proceeding from the mouth of God; who fed [ 350 ]
Our Fathers here with Manna; in the Mount
Moses was forty days, nor eat nor drank,
And forty days Eliah without food
Wandred this barren waste; the same I now:
Why dost thou then suggest to me distrust, [ 355 ]
Knowing who I am, as I know who thou art?
Whom thus answer'd th' Arch Fiend now undisguis'd.
'Tis true, I am that Spirit unfortunate,
Who leagu'd with millions more in rash revolt
Kept not my happy Station, but was driv'n [ 360 ]
With them from bliss to the bottomless deep,
Yet to that hideous place not so confin'd
By rigour unconniving, but that oft
Leaving my dolorous Prison I enjoy
Large liberty to round this Globe of Earth, [ 365 ]
To see thee and approach thee, whom I know
Declar'd the Son of God, to hear attent [ 385 ]
Thy wisdom, and behold thy God-like deeds?
Men generally think me much a foe
To all mankind: why should I? they to me
Never did wrong or violence, by them
I lost not what I lost, rather by them [ 390 ]
I gain'd what I have gain'd, and with them dwell
Copartner in these Regions of the World,
If not disposer; lend them oft my aid,
Oft my advice by presages and signs,
And answers, oracles, portents and dreams, [ 395 ]
Whereby they may direct their future life.
Envy they say excites me, thus to gain
Companions of my misery and wo.
At first it may be; but long since with wo
Nearer acquainted, now I feel by proof, [ 400 ]
That fellowship in pain divides not smart,
Nor lightens aught each mans peculiar load.
Small consolation then, were Man adjoyn'd:
This wounds me most (what can it less) that Man,
Man fall'n, shall be restor'd, I never more." [ 405 ]

After the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan he was led into the wilderness where he was tested. In his illustrations to Paradise Regained, Blake followed the biblical account where Milton followed it, and followed Milton's account where he supplemented what is found in the Bible.

Matthew's account is perhaps closest to what Blake portrayed in the second Illustration to Paradise Regained:

Matthew 4
[1] Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
[2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
[3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
[4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The reply that Jesus make to the tempter was a quote from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy in which the commandments of God were relayed to Israel:

Deuteronomy 8
[1] All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers.
[2] And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
[3] And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

It is from Milton's account that we see the tempter disguised as 'an aged man in Rural weeds.' The Gospel of Luke tells us that it was after fasting for 40 days that Jesus felt hunger. At that point the tempter attempted to undermine the confidence of Jesus that he was called the Son of God at his baptism. The tempter wanted Jesus to test God by commanding stones to be made bread :

Matthew 4
[3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

Milton and Blake were aware that in our world temptation is usually not easy to recognize because it hides itself in ordinary situations in which the possibility for harm is well concealed. The harm would not come from making bread from stone but from Jesus needing to prove that God had called him to be His Son. In Paradise Regained Satan twisted the account presented in Paradise Lost. Satan distorted his role from that of an enemy of man to that of a 'Copartner':

Paradise Regained
Book 1
"Men generally think me much a foe
To all mankind: why should I? they to me
Never did wrong or violence, by them
I lost not what I lost, rather by them [ 390 ]
I gain'd what I have gain'd, and with them dwell
Copartner in these Regions of the World,"

In Blake's illustration Satan in his first appearance to Jesus did not seem to be a threat, but a kindly old man trying to help. Jesus was not deceived.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Fitzwilliam Museum
Illustrations to Milton's Paradise Regained
Baptism of Christ
Milton's Paradise Regained followed his longer, more influential epic Paradise Lost. He continued to use biblical themes to explore man's circumstances in relationship to the Creator, and to the world in which he lived. Paradise Regained follows the New Testament account of Jesus resisting the temptation presented by Satan to which Adam had fallen prey. It covers the short period after Jesus' baptism when he struggled alone in the wilderness to understand how God intended him to accomplish the ministry to which he felt ordained.

In the first illustration Blake presented the Baptism of Jesus by his cousin John in the Jordan river. Here is the account of the event in the book of Mark:

[1] The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
[2] As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
[3] The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
[4] John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
[5] And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
[6] And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
[7] And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
[8] I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
[9] And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
[10] And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
[11] And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
[12] And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. In Paradise Regained Milton gives this account of the baptism of Jesus

Paradise Regained
Book 1
[Jesus speaks]

"I as all others to his Baptism came,
Which I believ'd was from above; but he
Strait knew me, and with loudest voice proclaim'd [ 275 ]
Me him (for it was shew'n him so from Heaven)
Me him whose Harbinger he was; and first
Refus'd on me his Baptism to confer,
As much his greater, and was hardly won;
But as I rose out of the laving stream, [ 280 ]
Heaven open'd her eternal doors, from whence
The Spirit descended on me like a Dove,
And last the sum of all, my Father's voice,
Audibly heard from Heav'n, pronounc'd me his,
Me his beloved Son, in whom alone [ 285 ]
He was well pleas'd; by which I knew the time
Now full, that I no more should live obscure,
But openly begin, as best becomes
The Authority which I deriv'd from Heaven."

Blake fills his illustration with detail from the Bible, from Milton, and from his own myth of fall and redemption which he saw repeated everywhere he looked. Blake used  the symbols which recur throughout his work, and in the body of esoteric thought with which his mind was filled.

Jesus occupies the central position in the picture. There are figures to the right of Jesus [our left] which are beneficent and to the left which are sinister. John the Baptist, representing the past, faces away from us. Jesus faces the viewer directly inviting him to see Jesus 'thru' his spiritual eye, not 'with' his material eye. Satan with his serpent is expelled from the scene but will reappear when Jesus enters the wilderness. The spiritual nature of Jesus is represented by the descent of the dove and the light radiating from above. His physical nature is apparent as he stands in water and has it poured upon his head.

Blake created twelve illustrations for Paradise Regained. The information provided by the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge where they are housed dates them between 1816 and 1818. They were purchased from Blake by John Linnell in 1825. Like all of the illustrations by Blake to Milton's work they were produced not for publication but for private collectors. Blake delighted in illustrating the work of his hero Milton. His illustrations are a colloquy between himself and the author: he listens to what Milton says and replies out of his own experience. The biblical authors participate in the conversation as well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


First published June 2011.

Blake described the Printing house in Hell on Plate 15 of Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Going through the five chambers we arrive at the sixth where books are arranged in libraries. This is all for the purpose of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Plate 15, (E 39)
"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 stones.
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 cliffs.
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 the arranged in libraries."

Joseph Viscomi takes us thought the process in which the Blakes engaged while making the illuminated books using the chambers of the Printing House of Hell.

Chamber 1: preparing the plate
Chamber 2: executing the design
Chamber 3: etching with acid
Chamber 4: inking the plate
Chamber 5: printing and coloring
Chamber 6: prints into books

Viscomi's article is available in the Blake Archive. Enjoy the detailed run through of producing Illuminated Books. (Click on Engraving or any chapter heading.)

Read more in Inquiry into Blake's Method of Color Printing by Robert N. Essick and Joseph Viscomi.

See Blake's methods demonstrated by Michael Phillips.
Blake described the Printing House in Hell on Plate 15 of Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Read PRINTING HOUSE II for the psychological process.


Tuesday, July 09, 2019


First published June 2011.

Wikimedia Commons
Small Book of Designs   
Copy B, c. 1796   
Book of my Remembrance    
Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 15, (E 40)
                            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
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
A previous post reduced the imagery of Plate 15 of Marriage of Heaven & Hell to prosaic terms describing Blake creating his illuminated books from copper, gravers, acid, inks, paper and paints. A more esoteric process can also be seen in the chambers of the printing house.

clearing away the rubbish' The first chamber is the dark cavern of the unconscious. It is a typical starting point in any movement of psychological development. The Cosmic egg must be cracked, the cultural rut must be breached, the bottom must be reached or the need for change must be acknowledged. This prepares the surface of the copper (or the hardened rituals and routines) to receive the images which will modify and transform it.

'folding round the rock & the cave, and others adorning it' The second chamber in which the design is executed allows the rational mind to have its say. A plan is made and transferred to the surface. The plate is not the image itself but the means by which the image may come forth. The plate is incised, reversed, manipulated. It is a material object or state but it is only a transient stage in the evolutionary process.

'caused the inside of the cave to be infinite' The Eagle of Imagination occupies the third chamber where the acid bath removes copper which has not been protected by waxed applications. This is the stage which is not controlled by the artist but by the action of the acid which acts as the agent of the imagination. The furnaces of Los are forever engaged in this process of removing what can and must be discarded.

'melting the metals into living fluids' In the fourth chamber the inks are prepared using fire and fluids. They are applied to the surfaces which stand elevated as mountains above the valleys of etched copper. 

'cast the metals into the expanse' All that went before this step was preparation, The sixth chamber sees the inked plates meet the expanse of paper which are ready to receive them and prove that the process has brought forth the product of imagination first conceived.

'took the forms of books' In the sixth chamber the artists prepare to release their 'children' to go into the world. What had been internal has become external, what had been eternal has become temporal, what had been a seed has come to fruition. The cocoon has released the butterfly.

'This is all for the purpose of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.'
In this our world of generation this is the method through which Blake can transmit his knowledge to the generations which come after. But unless the printed pages open the minds of men to the 'perception of the infinite', we remain in the first chamber amidst our clutter.

Milton, Plate 28 (30), (E 126)
"But others of the Sons of Los build Moments & Minutes & Hours
And Days & Months & Years & Ages & Periods; wondrous buildings
And every Moment has a Couch of gold for soft repose,
(A Moment equals a pulsation of the artery)    ,
And between every two Moments stands a Daughter of Beulah
To feed the Sleepers on their Couches with maternal care.
And every Minute has an azure Tent with silken Veils.  
And every Hour has a bright golden Gate carved with skill.
And every Day & Night, has Walls of brass & Gates of adamant,
Shining like precious stones & ornamented with appropriate signs:

And every Month, a silver paved Terrace builded high:
And every Year, invulnerable Barriers with high Towers.
And every Age is Moated deep with Bridges of silver & gold.
And every Seven Ages is Incircled with a Flaming Fire.
Now Seven Ages is amounting to Two Hundred Years
Each has its Guard. each Moment Minute Hour Day Month & Year.
All are the work of Fairy hands of the Four Elements      
The Guard are Angels of Providence on duty evermore
Every Time less than a pulsation of the artery
Is equal in its period & value to Six Thousand Years.
PLATE 29 [31]
For in this Period the Poets Work is Done: and all the Great
Events of Time start forth & are concievd in such a Period
Within a Moment: a Pulsation of the Artery."


Saturday, July 06, 2019


Reposted from March 2012.

The Quaker movement began during the English Civil Wars. John Milton was a young man when George Fox began preaching his message of radical dissent from established religion. Milton became an official of the Commonwealth and the Cromwell government which offered hope for religious freedom but were not able to deliver it. When the monarchy was restored and Milton returned to his quiet life of scholarship he developed an association with Quakers. Although this was a period of Quaker persecution under acts of Parliament which prohibited their meeting and preaching, Milton had friends among the Quakers.

Milton's doctor was a friend of the Quaker Isaac Pennington, who was acquainted with a young Quaker who wanted to study Latin. Pennington arranged with Dr Paget for Thomas Ellwood to read in Latin to the blind Milton. Although Ellwood had some knowledge of Latin, he first received instruction on pronunciation since he was unaware of proper Latin pronunciation. Milton discerned when Ellwood needed help with understanding what he was reading and gave him assistance. A trusting relationship developed as evidenced by Ellwood arranging for a place in a Quaker community for Milton and his family to live when the plague made it unsafe for them to stay in London.

British Museum
John Milton & Thomas Ellwood
Sketch by James Barry, a friend of William Blake

Ellwood continued to be a welcome visitor to Milton's home after the Latin lessons had ceased. On a visit to Milton's home in 1665 Ellwood was shown a manuscript of Paradise Lost which he was allowed to take home and read. When he returned the manuscript to Milton, after some discussion, he inquired of Milton what he may have to say about 'Paradise Found'. From this conversation, Milton later told Ellwood, came the sequel to Paradise Lost: Paradise Regained.

Ellwood was entrusted with a portion of the papers of Milton at his death. Miltons republican-letters : or a collection of such as were written by command of the late Commonwealth of England from the year 1648 to the year 1659 was published in 1682. The book includes this statement: 'originally writ by the learned John Milton, secretary to those times ; and now translated into English by a wel-wisher of England's honour'.

As a tribute to his teacher and friend, Ellwood wrote an epitaph which can be read at this site. Ellwood however turned his interest away from Milton to the publication, in 1694, of George Fox's Journal. The task of editing Fox's Journal rested partly on Milton's encouragement and careful training of Ellwood when he was embarking on a serious path of learning.

From The History of Thomas Ellwood Written by Himself:
'He, on the other hand, perceiving with what earnest desire
I pursued learning, gave me not only all the encouragement but all
the help he could; for, having a curious ear, he understood by my
tone when I understood what I read and when I did not; and
accordingly would stop me, examine me, and open the most difficult
passages to me.'

Blake was of the opinion that we are all capable of performing miracles because astonishing and comforting things are performed, not by us, but through us. Perhaps Milton, Ellwood and Fox could each see his work as miracle.

Annotations to Watson, (E 616)
"Jesus could not do miracles where unbelief hinderd hence we
must conclude that the man who holds miracles to be ceased puts
it out of his own power to ever witness one The manner of a
miracle being performd is in modern times considerd as an
arbitrary command of the
agent upon the patient but this is an impossibility not a miracle
neither did Jesus ever do such a miracle. Is it a greater
miracle to feed five thousand men with five loaves than to
overthrow all the armies of Europe with a small pamphlet
look over the events of your own life & if you do not find that
you have both done such miracles & lived by such you do not see
as I do True I cannot do a miracle thro experiment & to
domineer over & prove to others my superior power as neither
could Christ But I can & do work such as both astonish &
comfort me & mine

Wednesday, July 03, 2019


The Characters in Spencer's Faerie Queene
Fine Arts Prints

When in about 1825 Blake painted a large picture illustrating the Characters of Spenser's Faerie Queene, he included the minute detail which Spencer has lavished upon his poem. As usual when Blake illustrated his predecessors he was commenting on aspects of their thought with which he agreed and on what he found to be in error. Spenser was one of the authors whose work Blake found contained vision even though as an allegory it failed to represent what Exists in Eternity. 

Vision of Last Judgment, (E 554)
"The Last Judgment is not Fable or Allegory
but Vision Fable or Allegory are a totally distinct & inferiorkind of Poetry.
Vision or Imagination is a Representation of

what Eternally Exists.  Really & Unchangeably.  Fable or Allegory
is Formd by the Daughters of Memory.  Imagination is Surrounded
by the daughters of Inspiration who in the aggregate are calld
Jerusalem     Fable is Allegory but what Critics call The
Fable is Vision itself   The Hebrew Bible & the Gospel of
Jesus are not Allegory but Eternal Vision or Imagination of All
that Exists  Note here that Fable or Allegory is Seldom without
some Vision   Pilgrims Progress is full of it the Greek Poets the
same but 
Allegory & Vision& Visions of Imagination ought
to be known as Two Distinct Things & so calld for the Sake of
Eternal Life"  
The Blake Archive has published an article on Blake's The Characters in Spenser’s Faerie Queene. The authors John E. Grant Robert E. Brown have made a detailed analysis of the individuals in the picture which were included in the Faerie Queene. Blake included numerous Spencer characters, many of whom are not clearly visible. As Blake did in his illustration of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, he portrayed the essential identity of each individual as the author delineated them. Grant and Brown use Blake's illustration to make it possible to grasp a sense of Spenser's allegory through seeing men and women interacting with one another.

Here is a sample from the The Faerie Queene: Book I, Canto I provided by the Poetry Foundation 
By Edmund Spenser 

Long after lay he musing at her mood,
Much griev'd to think that gentle Dame so light,
For whose defence he was to shed his blood.
At last dull wearinesse of former fight
Having yrockt a sleepe his irkesome spright,
That troublous dreame gan freshly tosse his braine,
With bowres, and beds, and Ladies deare delight:
But when he saw his labour all was vaine,
With that misformed spright he backe returnd againe.  

The Gutenberg Press published Book 1 of The Faerie Queene edited and introduced by George Armstrong Wauchope. He provides thorough introductory information on the setting, form and content of the work.

Wauchope writes:
"That the allegory of the poem is closely connected with its aim and ethical tendency is evident from the statement of the author that "the generall end therefore of all the booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline. Which for that I conceived should be most plausible and pleasing, being coloured with an historical fiction, the which the most part of men delight to read, rather for varietie of matter then for profite of the ensample." The Faerie Queene is, therefore, according to the avowed purpose of its author, a poem of culture. Though it is one of the most highly artistic works in the language, it is at the same time one of the most didactic. 'It professes," says Mr. Church, "to be a veiled exposition of moral philosophy.'"

It easy to see how there would be much in Spenser's allegory which would not appeal to Blake's mythopoetic sensibilities.

Elizabeth Jane Darnill, in her thesis submitted to the University of Exeter, titled "Four-fold vision see": Allegory in the Poetry of Edmund Spenser and William Blake makes this statement which clarifies the relationship between imagination, seeing 'thru' the eye, and reading allegory for its visionary content:

"For Blake, the imagination is a continually lived experience, though he is fully aware of the extent to which readers fail to acknowledge and engage with their imaginations. Instead of seeing the “Infinite & Eternal,” readers often confine and limit their minds to the scope of the rational and sensible. A major theme within Blake’s verse, especially in Milton, The Four Zoas and Jerusalem, is the reawakening of the imagination, the awareness of alternative ways of viewing and interpreting. He sought to invite his readers to think and to see more deeply and profoundly. In this sense, the imagination working in partnership with allegory, guides and prompts a greater awareness of multiple levels of viewing. Just as Spenser’s allegorical work encourages readers to use their imagination, Blake’s imaginative verse inspires a deep interrogation of the text and the revelation of the allegorical meanings within it. Readers who see not 'with' but 'through' the eyes are using their minds – their imaginative faculties – when evaluating a scene, rather than relying purely upon the singular dimension of sight when reading the text (“Auguries of Innocence” ll. 125-26). Through allegorical-imaginative didacticism, Blake strives to convey the power of the human imagination."

Manchester City Gallery
Edmund Spenser
for William Hayley's Library