I wanted to take the opportunity to dwell a little further on the art of the frontispiece and speak about it in relation to self-annihilation. The most striking detail of this frontispiece is the split in the title that seems to display a broken name. Milton is deliberately pushing into the work causing a disturbance. The cover anticipates the theme of self-annihilation in the work that Milton desires to ultimately seek. Blake’s choice to split the title echoes the line in the work: “I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!/ I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death.” The splitting of his name in the frontispiece demonstrates his attempt to rip apart his identity–to annihilate himself. It appears that the name has been broken into two equal halves and I am assuming that in the second book, Milton after his cleansing annihilation in the “Eternal Death” will be reunited in “one wonderful body.”

I find it peculiar that Blake deems it necessary for Milton to sacrifice himself as Christ did. I cannot wait to see the result of the supreme self-sacrifice in the end of this poem. Until then, however, I wonder why the self-sacrifice is necessary–does Blake see it as the only way to break free from Urizen? Why must Milton be the figure to bring forth the New Jerusalem? I guess Blake must identify with Milton as an artist (pretty bold move) and sees his representation of Satan in Paradise Lost as containing an absurd amount of energy–embodying revolution and passion. Blake must see this rendition as sufficient as to choose Milton as he requires him to harness the energy from his creation and “claim the Hells, [his] Furnaces, [as he goes] to Eternal Death.” Thoughts on the subject?

 

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