In response to kathcal,

I think that your connection between Milton and slave spirituals is not tenuous at all but, rather, quite an adept recognition. In fact, I would further argue that Milton: Book the First explores another form of slavery to which Blake frequently alludes: mental enslavement. Just as Blake disapproves of the institution of slavery, as is evident in many of his works, he also disapproves of the binding moral and logic-based laws of Urizen; such disapproval led him to put forward the idea of self-annihilation as a way of creating distance from the rational, systematized part of oneself. I’m curious about your claim that self-annihilation involves the abandonment, or sacrifice as you referred to it, of autonomy. Quite contrarily, I would argue that the act of self-annihilation enables one to become autonomous, The act of self-annihilation in and of itself is destructive but it doesn’t degrade the part of oneself that is intrinsically your own. Self-annihilation is a way of freeing oneself from Urizen’s ties and, on a more conceptual level, it is not the separating of the self into two parts, it is the final freeing of the self from a counterpart to which it was unceremoniously attached–Urizenic law.

Considering Milton in the context of slavery commentary, the engraving on Pg. 126 (shown below) takes on a double entendre of sorts. Milton’s personage, a sinewy character lunging forward and attacking Urizen dually suggests a break from his previous state of self and, more generally, from a state of subjugation and powerlessness. Certainly, the image of Milton is one of a man who has toiled laboriously, with brawny and defined muscles. One may even be as bold as to say that some of the markings on the back of Milton could be interpreted as scars from lashings by a whip. Thus, Milton gains a powerful, implicit jab at the slavery movement of the time while he furthers his contention imagistically that the self must be freed from Urizenic law to truly be capable of entering the “Kingdom of Heaven.”.

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