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A LITTLE BIT OF INTERPRETATION
But we have gone on too long with fatal facility, offering no hint of interpretation to Blake's myth, though it is in this that the Real Blake is most to be found. Something has been done in notes elsewhere—a small postscript on a few points may be added now. Blake devoted himself to his books of Jerusalem and Milton all through his exhibition period.
These are not at all what they would have been but for that harassing period of perpetual visits, interviews, and letters that kept Blake constantly distracted in the service of Hayley and his Life of Romney, during the years 1804 and 1805, when Milton was reduced to two books and Jerusalem was begun. Here again we must look at what has already been noticed when comparing the styles of Thel and Tiriel. The parts of Milton that evidently belong to Felpham contain a freer and smoother diction than that which is habitual in Jerusalem. There is a marked change of style. It is the difference in tone between a narrative and a manifesto. The difference between Vala and Jerusalem is still more distressingly noticeable. The tendency to melody of language which is a physical thing in a poet, and has a close connection with the nerves that direct his articulation, is always injured if he is obliged to talk much prose. The Arabs say that if their best racer goes once in the plough his gallop is never the same afterwards. Prolonged business conversations cause a poet to lose a fairyland note from his verse, and to descend to a sort of inspired and emphatic talking. Sometimes he brings with him what was best from his earlier manner and only drops a retarding and belittling sweetness. No one would say that Shakespeare's verse in Antony and Cleopatra was worse than in Romeo and Juliet, yet a shadow of the same kind of change as that between Thel and Tiriel and between Vala and Jerusalem may be noticed there. Sometimes the contrast in Jerusalem is only between a passage taken verbatim from Vala and the rest of the page. But sometimes additional words are thrust into the verse of Vala to bring it into keeping with the surroundings in Jerusalem by adding terms from that poem that Blake had not begun to use when Vala was written. No attempt is made to so alter the sentence that these terins may come in without destroying the musical quality of the verse. The “ long-resounding line” resounds no longer, though it powerfully urges and impresses.
Blake seems to have felt in Jerusalem that he was making his last great cry to the inattentive world.
He has only one thing to say: Imagination is Eternity. Art is its means of Brotherhood. Brotherhood is its means of Immortality. These three things together will weld the souls of the dead into the kingdom of God in heaven. Seek them!
He has still the same enemies as before against which to warn us, the most dangerous being individual morality, a private property in sin or righteousness, detrimental to that socialism of mental properties without which we could not learn to be Members of Christ.
We must learn to forgive sins to individuals; but sin is unpardonable unless it be looked on as a property of the state in which the sinful individual is. When we can so look on it, we have acquired “the only means to the forgiveness of sins."
The contrast and seeming antagonism between the sweetness of Blake's religious professions and the fury of his denunciations of those who, he thought, had used him ill, now grow less and less as the years pass. He ended by forgiving them all, but they never forgave him. Flaxman, probably feeling that Blake was the most ungrateful of men, at last dropped him: “I have no more intercourse with Mr. Blake.” Hayley could not be expected to endure him as a judge and denunciator twice. Stothard, in later life, refused to shake hands with him. Of course, as the phrase runs, “it served him right.” His doctrine of the difference between a friend and an enemy may be invoked by those who considered his conduct to them as not that of a friend. “He who loves his enemies, hates his friends; this surely is not what Jesus intends.” Does not Jesus, he reflected, whom we are told to imitate, promise in the end to cast off for ever all who will not accept him? In his parables is not the
head share, in of manketa of refword.”
tree, that by a year's gardening is proved useless, to be cut down. Did not he whip his own enemies out of his “ Father's House ” ? “He that is not with Me is against Me," with the postscript—"and I will be against him," was Blake's Christianity. It is, at least, biblical, but is evidently as well adapted for use by our opponents as by ourselves. “ The Word” is “a two-edged sword.”
But Blake's main idea of reforming the world turned on the providing of mankind with a love for ideas which they could share, instead of the love of property and woman which he admitted that, at present, they cannot, socialists and upholders of promiscuous intercourse notwithstanding. This great hope and object in Blake's life was due to a peculiar effect of his unusually strong imagination upon his equally unusually affectionate heart; and his complete forgetfulness that other people are almost invariably incapable of feeling as he did, because the vital connection between their imaginations and their hearts, always weak, breaks for ever while they are still children. The quality in his own character that led to Blake's belief that symbolic art, vivifying all things and all words through imaginative connection with the human form, would lead to universal love has already been shown by this sentence in his notes to Swedenborg:
Think of a white cloud as holy; you cannot love it. But of a holy man within the cloud ; love springs up in your thought. Jealousy and covetousness are parts of Nature, and Nature is full of evil will. “There is no good will.”
But sympathy with unshared feelings (none shares his wife, but each good husband sympathises with each other good husband) ends in leading man into imagination and so to art and heaven. That is the doctrine. Or as Blake says, we pass Orc (the Polypus) to get to Golgonooza.
This Polypus symbol is always so far good as adjoining is good, whether the Polypus be that of loves, each bad, or of Albion's spectre sons, each bad. But its bad form tends to destroy its good form-Jerusalem. The adjoining is the first step to anything good. It is an opening of the Western Gate, now closed by this attempt to live individual lives, which are necessarily temporary, composite life only being eternal. Of course, composite life meaus quite another thing to most people from what it means to a clairvoyant and a spiritualist, who really feels and sees that total unreality of Nature with its “apparent surfaces,” which scientific men only calculate on.
In reading Blake we must allow for this, and allow for that anti-individual or composite view of Christ, the opposite to the individualist view which the nonconformist conscience has adopted from the non-mystic Roman Catholic Church since it gradually changed into prose from the day when Gnostics were declared heretics; when these allowances are made they will clear all clouds from the symbolism. Then Jerusalem will be seen to be not only intelligible, but true. In it we also see Blake as a missionary.
It requires reading and re-reading before we track all the symbols down and sort out those that are explained in various passages from those that almost remain mere names (like some of the counties of England that are but loosely joined to any other symbols, and for lack of authoritative punctuation not quite comprehensibly divided under the headings of the tribes); and it must always be remembered, no reader can expect to take much pleasure in it who has not had a little Swedenborgian training, even though Blake does not adopt Swedenborg exactly. The day when people can be expected to endure a full account of Jerusalem, which would necessarily be ten times as long as the poem, has not dawned yet. The few students who really care will find that it interprets itself with a little help from Blake's letters, manifestoes, and maxims. But it is always necessary to beware of being satisfied too soon with any one of the four meanings of every symbol, even after the stories of the Zoas are familiar to us and we can even see one in the other, and Milton in Blake, in Christ, in his own Shadow, and even in Satan. That word in, with its brother within and the interpretation of within as above, is the beginning of a comprehension of Blake. There is hardly any line of his poems that can be read apart from his use of this idea and symbol.
Rarely, but with suggestive hint for interpretation, Blake even employs in so that it is difficult for the mind to see a vision of his particular statement that shall be congruous with its preconceived vision of one or more terms of his statement. There is an example of this in Milton, page 36, line 13, where we hear that,
Ololon stepped into the polypus. Now, as the Polypus is Orc, son of Los and Enitharmon, we have a female stepping into a male.
But Ololon, who was a host, appeared in a female form, for reasons described in the immediate context. These reasons are elaborated in connection with the “nameless shadowy female” by Orc himself in the long argument which fills extra-page 17. The exact prose interpretation of “Ololon" is not offered here, because, like other mystical symbols, it would require too frequent a reference to generative truths and details to make it suitable for the uninitiated, who would not take it wisely and purely.
The word in has also been used, as we have seen if we have read through Milton, on page 19, line 59, etc.—
So spake the family Divine as One Man, even Jesus,
this cloud being an appearance that became female within the Mundane Shell. The word in is also used when what is seen in the vision of Milton is described—Milton, page 37, lines 15 to 60.
In the same way the word is becomes a lamp for those who can use its flame and a thick darkness to those who are lost in its smoke.
Satan is Enitharmon's first-born (he is also her last-born, being Orc's human remains, explained in Vala).
Orc is her first-born-Europe, page 4, line 11; Vala, Night VIII, line 375, etc.
Orc is Luvah— Vala, Night VII, line 151.
In Milton, Milton is both Los, Blake, and a crowd of others. In the Jerusalem, page 96, line 22, Albion sees Jesus in likeness of Los. In real life Blake would sometimes only just remember in time not to speak the same language. To Crabb Robinson, who asked him whether there was an affinity between his Spirits and the Genius that used to hold converse with the mind of Socrates, he said: "I was Socrates, or a sort of brother. I must have had conversations with him. So I had with Jesus Christ. I have an obscure recollection of being with both of them.” “Jesus," he also said, “ is the only God, and so are you, and so am I.” This passage about having been with Socrates may have given rise to the idea that Blake adopted the theory of reincarnation. To those who know how free from Time is the part of us called by Swedenborg the “ Celestial Mind," and how difficult it is, when we have put this to sleep in order to chat
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