« ZurückWeiter »
heard of till page 59, line 10, where it is not spoken of directly, but where we hear of the egg whose shell it is; and in page 64, line 1, we hear that it froze on all sides round Canaan, which with its context we must read along with page 65, line 32, in the long passage about the daughters of Albion. Its relationship to the Vegetative Earth is given in page 72, line 45 and following.
But in page 75 the first puzzling detail is offered, namely, that the twenty-seven folds of opaqueness—satanic folds-or “heavens” are formed by Los within the Mundane Shell, which can only be understood in connection with its purpose in the following line 25, and in connection with the line in “ Africa” (a portion of the book called A Song of Los), where the terrible race of Los gave laws and religions to the sons of Har, binding them more and more to earth till a philosophy of the five senses was complete which Urizen, weeping, gave to Newton and Locke. Churches tend to make worshippers materialistic. They are poetic, if at all, at their peril. These coverings are “poisons” of Rahab, one notices, in this same page 75 of Jerusalem, which must be read also with page 37 of Milton. The sense in which the physical part is to be taken is indicated in page 83, lines 33 etc., which may be also read along with the poem called the Mental Traveller, and in the long and difficult speech of Los in page 92 of Jerusalem (where a wrong full-stop seems to have been inserted after the word Judgment, line 20 of the Russell and Maclagan edition), and where we are told that the Druids reared their rocky circles and framed the Mundane Shell in order to make permanent remembrance of sin. But this is how the thing is seen when viewed in the emanative visions of Canaan. With regard to poison, this is (in poetry only) used by Blake to refer to whatever charms the mind into corporeal limits :
Why cannot the ear be closed to its own destruction,
Or glistening eye to the poison of a smile? from the closing page of Thel, is the most widely-known instance of this, as it is in Gilchrist and in Mr. Yeats's cheap volume of selections—the best cheap volume yet issued.
In her lips and cheeks his poisons rose
Quaritch edition, Vala, I, 152 ; Reddening, the demon strong prepared the poison of sweet love.
Quaritch edition, Vala, VII, 227,
are the next most familiar. The following words from the crossed-out lines in Tiriel, given on page 293 of the Chatto and Windus edition of Blake, are less familiar, but to the same purpose :
In silent deceit, poisons inhaling from the morning rose. This has the further value of reminding us that deceit in Blake always meant the deceit of the flesh, its power of making us attribute reality to it on account of our emotions, though our minds know better.
This is all that Jerusalem contains about the Mundane Shell, but it would be troublesome enough without the references in Vala, where we learn that Urizen ordered its building to be done by his bands of influences (Night II, line 21 and following), and that it was he who petrified human imagination into rock and sand, till there were groans among the Druid temples.
Line 240 says plainly:
Thus was the Mundane Shell built by Urizen's strong powera line which follows what, but for the allusions in Milton (last page) to the red woof of 600 years, would be unintelligibly irrelevant:
And the Divine vision appeared in Luvah's robes of blood.
The difficulty is to understand why Blake did not seem to see that he was contradicting himself. We see it without difficulty by looking at the names. He overlooked the appearance—it is no more—by having his eyes fixed on the meanings. · A little higher in Night VI, we find Luvah saying:
And Urizen who was Faith and Certainty is changed to Doubt.
Urizen is spoken of as changed by the action of Luvah. Affections and passions change intellect.
We find that the furnaces (of affliction) were unsealed, and that the metal ran in channels cut by the plough of ages held in Urizen's hands. In this part of the poem, it is true, Los now and then appears. He is young and sarcastic. Later on he changes, takes command of the furnaces, and manages everything, because he has found Urizen unfit to do so, until the time of the end when Albion (Man) awakes. The spirit of prophecy, the “ever-apparent Elias," who is Los,
as the eye alteres not theShell is bound Lockere se
takes up the work of mere Intellect when it ceases to have strength to carry the living fire of Faith, and, elaborating every religion into a system in his style, at last shows him how they all lead to a philosophy of the five senses which he has to give, weeping, to Newton and Locke.
Thus the Mundane Shell is built twice over in each of us, for “The fool sees not the same tree that the wise man sees," and “ The eye altering alters all,” and in the human race generally, as the early innocent savage forms of “wisdom, art, and science" (the primæval state of man) freeze into mathematic hardness as man's rationalistic intellect advances, he passes through miscomprehension of all poetry and so of all psychology into hopeless darkness (“Science is bankrupt” as the French say now), and finally has to learn, from freshly inspired reading of the misunderstood Christian religion, the relation of vision to mind, and of mind, in its two parts, to death and the body on one side and to immortality and brotherhood on the other. This is the last judgment now going on. It will, of course, “overwhelm bad art and science.”
These few details are intended for readers of Blake who, even after going through all his works, and reading the few explanatory notes given in the Chatto and Wiudus edition, are; occasionally hindered by seeming contradictions from seeing the real meaning, and so the real man, in his poetry.
HIS THREE LEADING IDEAS
AMONG the preoccupations of Blake's mind one religious thought was always first, the idea of the “Grand Man" that he derived from Swedenborg, and that we all know from Auguste Comte. By contemplating Swedenborg's symbol that fell into his mind like an apple into a garden, he discovered what may be called a law of Spiritual Gravitation. This gives him so curious a brotherhood with Sir Isaac Newton, his favourite aversion, that it is difficult to read his bursts of fury against Newton without smiling. The Newton whom he abused was a name for a mood, of course. The actual Sir Isaac he would have loved. There was much in common between the two men, beginning with their appearance, for if the nose be a little sharpened, the long quivering mouth reduced and moulded into lines more fit for a benevolent silence, and the eyes pressed a little back under the brows, instead of bulging out while they flashed fire, Blake's face and forehead would be very like Newton's. Newton reminds us of Blake also in his fate, in being compelled to work hard for his living while conscious that his genius was hindered by such labour, so that it was really a compulsory waste of time, in being misunderstood, in having the works of his brain attributed to others, in being supposed to be an alchemist, and even in being supposed to be mad. The word alchemist, indeed, was never applied to Blake, but his symbols were misread in a way similar to that which made Newton seem an alchemist.
The Mind, into which, as Blake says (in his letter about Flaxman's death, given below), we shall all go after death, is the Divine Bosom into which all the “Human Forms ” of the Powers we now see in “ Visions of Time and Space" as trees, metals, and stoncs, will also awake, as told in the last lines of Jerusalem. That inanimate objects have life as much as we ourselves, seems another of Blake's opinions in which he was
teis existence itss to help to be were memhaon
just a century before his time, since Jerusalem bears date 1804. He even defined in his own way the region of the Divine Mind in which we shall live: it was the Body (the risen body) of Christ, and was the Human Imagination (Jerusalem, page 5, line 59), of which we were members, and which it was our business to help to build. It was “not a state," being “existence itself," and was therefore all that a “state” is and more. The extra-page 32 of Milton, read with Jerusalem, page 73, line 43, explains this. Incongruous as are such terms as protoplasm, primordial cell, and microbe in this connection, we see these organisms as intermediately between electrons and our own selves, much as Blake saw himself intermediary between Ideas and Christ, the Composite or Grand Man.
The word Body in a mental sense is used also in Jerusalem. “Satan,” called Limb of opaqueness (page 73, line 27), is the Body of Doubt, that seems but is not, in page 93, line 20 ; and in page 49, line 57, the body of Moses is seen to be built and to be Divine Analogy, but not to circumscribe Divine Analogy, for on being looked at again (page 85, line 7), this is seen to be larger, and Moses is planted in it as a seed, along with David and the Twelve Tribes. None of these are to be understood as the historical personages any more than Newton (along with Bacon and Locke) is the historic Rahab, who (in her turn) is only a name in the mortal and temporal region for the mythic Vala, who is the goddess Nature, daughter of “Luvah," mother, along with Jerusalem, of Albion's sons and partly of Los, and built herself by the reasoning power in man, aided by the Polypus, Orc, for passion, like reason, opposes the translucence and eternity of İmagination, and all the opposites of Imagination, being opposites of Eternity, and Christ, and Forgiveness, become also composite and One Body, that of Satan, who is Orc, Luvah, the Spectre of each Zoa (selfhood of each sense) and of Albion (Man), and of Rahab, and Tirzah, and Vala, and so far of Enitharmon as she is mother of Satan, and one of the emotional forms of that state of mind of which “the males” (Sons of Albion) are the intellectual forms. They are all Nature in the mass, until they arise and get free and join Christ. “That is Satan; he is the Greek Apollo," said Blake once, pointing to the sun. As natural objects lead us to doubt imaginations, though they do not really exist, Blake called Satan “The body of doubt that seems, but is not" (Jerusalem, page 93, line 30). That Nature does not forgive,