Tag Archive: baptism

“is this the Death Couch of Albion?/ Thou goest to Eternal Death & all must go with thee”

This Comment is in response to kathcal’s “The Necessity of Going Down.” This comment serves to add more support in terms of textual evidence to her argument. The passage that was assigned is in sync with kathcal’s statements on the sacrifice of autonomy in order to obtain oneness with God.

Milton, in his opening statements of the passage refers to the sacrifice of autonomy: “This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal Spirit; a Selfhood which must be put off.” Milton wishes to cast off his self-hood in order to become one with God–only attained through self-annihilation. He wishes to, in essence, be the impetus for a greater movement towards self-annihilation, to  start a chain-reaction. He wishes to “to take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination.” In the passage he speaks to address a large scale of people that seem to shun his view of Imagination–he seeks to purify, to reveal.

It seems to Blake that the individual forms that we currently occupy–our self-hood–has made us quite…selfish (ha). He is calling for a global cleansing on the scale of the Last Judgment in order to bring about the New Jerusalem. Blake, through Milton, fears that the current generation is too corrupt and tainted–too concerned with false figures, rather than pure Imagination–to bring about the New Jerusalem: “These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers/ Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life.” And connecting back to kathcal’s post, it ties closely with the spiritual calling others down to the river. His call for rebirth indeed mimics baptism–a “Regeneration.”


The Necessity of Going Down.

After reading the paragraph of Milton’s proclamation on p.162, the repetition of the phrase “I will go down” in lines 20 and 21 reminded me of the classic Christian spiritual “Down to the River to Pray,” and I have included a version sung by Alison Krauss in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou.

Although the connection between Milton and slave spirituals may seem tenuous at the onset, these works both consider self-annihilation as a means to reaching the divine. When Milton states, “I will go down to the sepulcher to see if morning breaks!/ I will go down to self annihilation and eternal death,” he recognizes the need to sacrifice his current life in order to avoid remaining imbued with Satan, being “that Evil One!” (20-21, 30). The image of the sepulcher reinforces this idea that death (and all its physical pain and suffering) must precede oneness with God, a state that can only be achieved by the destruction of autonomic reasoning.

In the spiritual, the singer encourages others to accompany her to the river to pray, which is a reference to baptism, and this sacrament can be seen in the accompanying video. Though Christian doctrine believes Christ to have been the ultimate atonement for sin (a tenet with which Blake disagrees), the rite of baptism literally mimics the act of being reborn as a Christian, and one can not possibly be reborn if one has not already died. Even the most mainstream sects of Christianity preach one must sacrifice autonomy in order to be receive in the Kingdom of Heaven, so although this song lacks the intense corporeality of Blake’s images and prose in Milton, the underlying belief in the necessity of self-annihilation drives both.