Monday, July 11, 2011

July 12

Has anybody used the resources you got last week?
There was a request for interpretation last week, but
I need a specific one. Send email
( ) or slo mail (1906 SE 8th St.) or
phone (369-6032)

I was hoping to get email-- with a question or a
comment or request.

I have plenty of time, nothing better to do than talk
with you about Blake.

If you have the net, you may read all this stuff at your
leisure by directing your browser to or maybe

Many people have the naive idea that a word has one
and only one meaning. True in Science, but not in
poetry. Words are metaphors or symbols that mean
different things according to the context.

For Blake everything had its contrary:

"Without Contraries is no progression, Attraction and Repulsion
Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys Reason.
Evil is the active springing from Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."
(From Marriage of Heaven and Hell; plate 3; E34)

The picture is Plate 4.)

Bear in mind that this is ironic, a parody,
not Blake's considered adult opinion, but the posturing of the 'angry young man'.

If you really want to understand Blake, you have to learn his language. That involves learning his metaphors and
symbols, one by one, or as he put it, dealing with the mnute particulars.

Take the word love for example:

1. It may mean sex

2. it may mean godly love.

Blake used the word love in a very special sense
This poem at Erdman 475-6 (one of my very favorites)
illustrates Blake's strange use of love, as well as
several other words that need Blakean definition;
The Spectre we've already talked about, identified
with the Selfhood and Satan. Blake talks with it in
this conversation; (we may talk at some other time about
the emanation (far within).

Blake's 'sweet loves' here are the Visions that meant so
much to him. But under the influence of the Selfhood he
lost the faculty of Vision.

("Suddenly, on the day after visiting the Truchsessian Gallery
pictures, I was again enlightened with the light I enjoyed in
youth, and which has for exactly twenty years been closed
me as by a door and by window-shutters."
(Letter to William Hayley, 23 October 1804)

"My Spectre around me night & day
Like a Wild beast guards my way
My Emanation far within
Weeps incessantly for my Sin

Seven of my sweet loves thy knife
Has bereaved of their life
Their marble tombs I built with tears
And with cold & shuddering fears

Seven more loves weep night & day
Round the tombs where my loves lay
And seven more loves attend each night
Around my couch with torches bright

And seven more Loves in my bed
Crown with wine my mournful head
Pitying & forgiving all
Thy transgressions great & small

(Look at Daniel 4:33 "That very hour was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.")

This is what happened to Blake when he fell under the
influence of his Spectre, and what happens to me, and
to you?)

"When wilt thou return & view
My loves & them to life renew
When wilt thou return & live
When wilt thou pity as I forgive"

[Now he talks about Female Love; (in a word female love was
self-love) it would

take an hour to explain what he meant by
that; he's telling the spectre that until they
give it up, his Visions will never return.)]

Till I turn from Female Love
And root up the Infernal Grove
I shall never worthy be
To Step into Eternity"

(The Infernal Grove is something that
books have been written about. This vale of tears?)

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

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

The last two verses have turned to the
happier mode. He equated Eternity with

Blake's image of Milton and Urizen from Plate 45 of Milton is a powerful statement of forgiveness: between a man and his own spectre.

In the picture above we have an inner God; here we have forgiveness of the 'God Without'. Once again:

"Then shall we return & see

The worlds of happy Eternity

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

There are three kinds of forgiveness:
of yourself,
of another,
of God.

Erich Fromm: The Art of Loving:
you cannot love any one of those three
without loving all of them

Love is about forgiveness; Blake repeated that often.

To go back to love Blake wrote many
beautiful poems on the subject:

The Clod and the Pebble
"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.
So sung a little Clod of Clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet,
But a Pebble of the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."

Now this one gives the most exalted Vision
of Love:
SONGS 18 (of Songs of Innocence)
The Divine Image.

To Mercy Pity Peace and Love,
all pray in their distress
And to these virtues of delight
Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy Pity Peace and Love
Is God our father dear
And Mercy Pity Peace and Love
Is Man his child and care

For Mercy has a human heart
Pity, a human face
and Love, the human form divine
And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man of every clime,

That prays in his distress,
Prays to the human form divine
Love Mercy Pity Peace.

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell,
There God is dwelling too

When you read this poem, you must realize that Blake
was a Universalist; he denied the exclusivity of
Christianity, as what narrow minded religionists refer to
as 'There's only One Way'.

The one thing that leads people to love or despise Blake is the
values he espoused:

Values determine what we think of Blake,
whether we love him or hate him:

Although Blake's poetry is most often opaque and mystifying, to share the following values gives one a leg up on understanding.

Non material: no! anti materialistic: 'when you die, you die.' Blake would have laughed at that materialistic viewpoint: there are several kinds of death, and life, we die to live ((except a gain of seed fall into the ground (and die as a seed) it yields nothing.))

Anti-clerical: The Established Church in Blake's day was shot through with corruption. To go to the Established Church was to stamp your approval on social preferences.
But Blake saw much to disapprove in the Dissenters churches also. He saw that any church is an institution, with all the flaws of any institution: favoritism, privilege, 'politics', everything but brotherhood.

Anti-war: No peacenik of our generation has anything over Blake. He associated war with the State, the ultimate constriction of human freedom.

Political: a rabid liberal. He gloried in the American Revolution and felt the same toward the French Revolution until the guillotine came to the fore.
He opposed emphatically class economic privilege.

I'd be glad to discuss these four values, or any others you may see in Blake.


Bio, the Early Years

London was a rapidly growing metropolis filling with poor
farmers who had been dispossessed of their farms by the
inclosure movement, which encouraged the large land owners
to seize their land. The poor farmers (or tenants) had little left
except large families and hunger.

Blake's family had been in London longer; they were respectable
tradespeople; you might call them lower middle class. Blake's
parents were dissenters; they had left the established church
for one of the many sects that had arisen in the 17th and 18th
Centuries. Blake was a dissenter from birth.

At four the child ran out of his bedroom claiming that an ugly
God had look in his window; he mother consoled him. A few years
later he claimed that he had seen a tree filled with angels.

At six he was placed in school. The first day he saw the
schoolmaster flogging a pupil; young Blake immediately rose and
exited; the was the end of his academic career; thereafter his
education came largely from his own reading. He was called an
autodidact. Unlike most of us Blake was an individualist!

At ten Blake's father put him in a drawing school, during which
he showed a gift for visual arts, and at 14 his father proposed to
apprentice him to an engraver. After meeting the man chosen the
young Blake declined; he told his father that he felt the man would
be hanged. Sure enough he was hanged a few years later for forgery.

All of these events meant that the child had an unusual psyche.
His mother was very dear, and his father dealt with him permissively
and with real intelligence.

The next choice for an apprenticeship was satisfactory; his employer showed an awareness of Blake's gifts, and showed him how to use them. After his apprenticeship he enrolled in the Royal Academy, but he had problems with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the leader of the school.

An early engraving was of Joseph of Arimathea among the Rocks of Albion.

According to British legend this man had lots of tin mines in Cornwall. The legend led Blake to say this in the Preface to Milton (Erdman page 95)

"And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land."

Would to God that all the Lords people were Prophets." Numbers XI. ch 29 v.

A few years later he was invited to teach the children of the royal family. But that would have been a disaster; he was going through the years of protest (actually the years of protest lasted for his entire life).

At 19 the American Revolution broke out. Like many other Brits he sympathized with the colonies; he wrote a long poem called America justifying Washington and the others.

The French Revolution came along in the 1790s and once again he sympathized with the revolutionists, but when the guillotine became the primary activity in France, he withdrew his sympathy. Blake above all hated violence; he wrote many pages of poetry condemning the empirical wars of his country.

He was an 'angry young man'; that was reflected in his first large poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. It is shocking in the extreme, attracts some (especially young) readers and repels older conventional people. MHH will give you a significant introduction of a (relatively) young Blake.

His dissatisfaction with the conventional (Established) Church is expressed in these verses from Plate 11:

"a system was formed, which some took advantage of and enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects; thus began Priesthood.

Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things.
Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast."

These verses show the slight regard in which he viewed priests and the doctrines they taught; they also show his emphasis on 'The God Within'.

Blake's Myth

Unable to believe the conventional established theology, Blake felt that he must deal with it:

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

He proceeded to create his own System. It was structured in the form of four zoas; each one had a name:

Tharmas: The body, sensation, water

Urizen the reasoning faculty. He fought his own Urizen for years (perhaps because he was so cerebral).

Luvah the feeling function. Blake leaned toward this one, but his identity was more like
Urthona, called Los in the world: call it imagination or intuition.

In Eternity the four zoas were parts of the Eternal Albion. In the world they broke up into warring factions.

The Four Zoas was to be the greatest unfinished poem in the Engliah Language. Actually it was a sort of notebook or maybe a rough draft for the two major works, called Milton and Jerusalem.

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